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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Home still a distant dream for Gujarat riot victims

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Six months ago, Iqbal Sheikh and his family complained to the Vidyanagar police, nearly 100km away from Ahmedabad, that some villagers had threatened them with dire consequences if they returned to their home at Mogri village in Anand district. 

"They (the villagers) pelted stones at our home at night and wanted us to withdraw complaints despite my explaining them that we had not registered any complaint against them during the riots", said Sheikh, who is settled in Hadgud village with his family for the past three years.

Like the Sheikhs, hundred of victims of riots in Gujarat have not been able to return to their homes because they still fear for their lives.

They still live in make-shift accommodations, hoping that one day tempers will cool down and their neighbours will not oppose their return. If they dare to go to their abandoned homes during the day, they make it sure that they return to the safety of the new havens by sunset. 

Sabir Ali Saiyed, a youth, and 16 other families who lived in Ognaj village of Ahmedabad district, still have not returned to their homes. They had left their abodes in March 1, 2002 during the riots. Saiyed quit a job in ceramic tiles factory and moved to the homes built by the Islamic Relief Committee (IRC) at Juhapura. He said that some of them go to their village to buy kerosene, but others cannot muster courage to go to the village and they have changed their ration cards.

IRC’s Shakeel Ahmed said that there were an estimated 50,0000 displaced by the riots and the government has not conducted any survey about them or tried to rehabilitate them. 

Yunus Mansuri, a survivor of the Diida massacre, where 11 people lost their lives, in Visnagar district, said that none of the families has returned to the village who had left the village during the riots. 

Even the residents of Gulbarg society who had left their homes, where former MP Ahsan Jafri was killed along with 38 others, have not returned, some of the residents are now living in Gandhinagar. Many of the Naroda Patiya inhabitants are now staying in Vatva.

Many riot victims from the villages in Panchmahals and Dahod districts cannot dare to return to their villages. Amanullah Pathan of the Amanseva Trust said that there are 300 people from Khedbrahma and Bhiloda talukas in Sabarkantha district and they are staying in Vadali. They are terrified and unable to return to their homes. 

Godhra Gaurav, an NGO is planning to move the NHRC to know the status of displaced persons during the riots.
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