It has been 10 years since perhaps the worst riots broke out in Gujarat. These riots could be traced back to the 1992/93 riots, which have their roots deeply set in history. You cannot change history, it has happened, what we could change is the future. Of course, like everything else, it is easier said than done.
I have always lived in the urban ahmedabad. (heh, yes, such thing does exist) Lived outside the municipal limits till few years back when they included our area in the municipality. The real Ahmedabad is the walled city, on the bank of river Sabarmati. For years, Hindus, Muslims and Jains have lived there, and the area is so communally sensitive (politically motivated or not is secondary) that riots could break out even if a hindu boy cuts a muslim boy’s kite during uttarayan.
Today, parents, and cousins and I went to the old city for dinner from the roadside stalls the old city is famous for. On our way back, dad pointed out to.. for the lack of better politically correct word.. a place where swords and other form of ammunition are allegedly kept. And if a riot were to break out, within seconds, it would be impossible to get our alive from that lane we were passing through. And yes, it was so eerily silent, I would actually believe what dad was telling me, though I am sure it was exaggerated.
When we left that lane, dad told me, “… things became so bad, J had to leave Ahmedabad, and that is why he went to Canada.”
J was his Muslim colleague in bank, who had a son who was a year older to me, so in 2002 he must be 17 and a daughter, a few years younger to me. I asked him, oh, but I didn’t know they were harassed during the riots.
“No, nothing happened to him”, he said and went quiet.
There was silence in the car for a few minutes. I asked him again, what had happened to J uncle. And this uncle was someone who had been dad’s colleague since almost 20 years.
He thought for a while and recounted how my parents used to visit them on Eid and how J uncle and family would visit us for Diwali. They lived in the “communally sensitive area” of Ahmedabad. His son, S, used to also go to the Madrassa for learning Quran. And his family was one god fearing family.
2-3 days after the riots broke out, J uncle saw his son run up to their house. He was out of breath for running in such a hurry. J uncle got worried. Everyone lived under the threat for those days, because people (not hindus or muslims) were stabbed and killed and burnt alive. Anyway, so S ran up to the house, and J uncle visibly worried, asked him if everything was alright with him. He went to the kitchen and brought out the butcher knife and started for the door. J uncle asked him where he was going. S said, “woh XX jagah pe do logon ko kaatna hai” (at XX place, we have to kill those two people)
J uncle was stunned beyond words. He could not believe what his son, all of 17, was telling him. His son, who used to learn the teachings of the Holy Book, and go for Namaaz 5 times a day, and was a bright kid, studying to be an engineer, was talking of killing people. He had not brought up his son with these ideals. Neither did the holy book taught him that. “He was influenced by the company he kept”.
J uncle slapped S hard, and the very moment they left their house and moved to his sister’s place in another area, and two days later, they moved to Bombay, where they decided they were moving to Canada. For good.
One family had to leave the city they had lived all their lives in. No one from their family was killed. None of their property was damaged. They still long to come back to India. It has been 10 years now. Life in Canada is a struggle for them. But the very thought that this is the same city their teenaged son picked up a weapon with an intention to kill someone shatters them.
Dad tells me J uncle cried like a baby in front of him. He said, “we used to come to your place for Diwali, and you also know my entire family, but now, it is so painful for me to even look into your eye”. Dad tried to console him, and how S is like his own son too, but J uncle retorted, “but he picked up a knife to kill someone who was like a father or a brother to him too”. Dad had no reply. While recalling this tale, dad’s eyes became a little moist.
How one incident had changed relations forever.
ps – if you do decide to leave comments, please refrain from commenting on Narendra Modi or his role in riots. I will delete those comments.