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Gujarat Muslims back in relief camps

A nationwide bandh called by the VHP and Shiv Sena on September 26 in protest against the Akshardham temple attack in Gandhi Nagar , Gujarat created panic among Muslims forcing them to rush to the camps. 

Hapless Muslims, who had seen the naked dance of barbarism only a few months ago, were so frightened by the bandh call given by the same elements who were also the organisers of the bandh on February 28 that they thought it wise to take precaution before anything untoward happened. Muslims, particularly those living in vulnerable areas of the state, rushed back to the camps and other places they thought safer for themselves. It was during the February 28 bandh that the anti-Muslim carnage had begun. 

Having no faith in the caretaker government led by Narendra Modi, Muslims thought it wiser to take no chances this time.Droves of Muslims began to pour into the nearby relief camps the night before the bandh.

Fear of a Hindu backlash triggered panic, particularly in Panchmahals and Dahod, the most sensitive districts of the state.

Sense of insecurity was prevailing in Panchmahals. Muslims living in the villages close to Halol, Kalol, Lunawada and the district headquarters Godhra, were seen rushing to safer places. The same scene was found in Dahod too, where villagers from Piplod, Randikpur and Limkheda came looking for safety.

Not only relief camps and relatives’ homes but madrasahs also became shelters. Muslims of vulnerable areas like Naroda-Patia, where on February 28 more than 80 Muslims were killed and burnt, headed back to the relief camps, doubling the population of Shah Alam Roza, one of the major camps.

Ershad Sayyed, a Naroda-Patia inhabitant left his rented house the day before the proposed bandh and took shelter at a dargah along with 100 others. Explaining his move, he posed the question, "what if there is another backlash like the February 28 one?"

Echoing the same fear, Maqsud Qureshi of Mohallh Naroda Ganj said, "I am carrying whatever little cash I had and some clothes. I hope nothing happens". By Wednesday night , the number of inmates at the Quresh Hall relief camp in Mirzapur swelled to 2,300 which had 1,300 inmates before the Akshardham attack. 

The volatile situation has forced many Muslims to leave the state for ever. Javed,a 14 year-old from Naroda-Patia, reasoned regarding his decision, "I was born here but I also lost my parents and sister here. There are too many bad memories here". His uncle Khalid and brother Aslam Sheikh also boarded the train with Javed for Gulbarga, Karnataka on September 30. Khalid, a pale looking old man who lost six members of his family at Naroda-Patia, said disappointedly, "I had walked into this city more than 20 years ago empty-handed. This city gave me a lot but now there is not a soul here that I can call mine, so there is no point in living here".

A moist-eyed Javed said, "I might come down for a visit when I grow up. But moving back to Ahmedabad is out of the question. In fact, I have asked my elder brother and my uncle to sell our Naroda house for it reminds me of the terror my family had to live through on February 28".

Both Khalid and Javed received compensation cheques on September 18. Javed wants to grow and become a policeman after he grew up. Khalid has decided to donate a part of the compensation money he got.

Not all the Muslims of vulnerable areas of Gujarat have left their homes, but those who stayed back had to prove their patriotism. Showing sympathy with the families of victims of the temple attack, they put posters on different spots condemning it.

Muslim leaders also wasted no time in condemning the attack. One of the huge posters on the Shah Alam Darwaza had a couplet from the national song written by Iqbal, "Mazhab nahin sikhata aapas mein bair rakhna \Hindi hain hum, watan hai Hindustan hamara"(Religion does not preach animosity; we all are Indians, India is our land).

¯ Jeelani Khan

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