Stories of Humanity in the riots

[Note to readers: It was suggested on the Forum of Indian Leftists listserv that stories of the small resistances and affirmations of dignity and humanity amid the murderous riots in Gujarat be collected.  Several members of that forum, notably Raja Harish Swamy, have provided ZNet with these materials in that interest.– ZNet South Asia]

The Telegraph– Chandrima Bhattacharya

Ahmedabad, March 4: Their love story had outraged many, though not the VHP which blessed their marriage. Last week, it saved some lives.

On Thursday, when the VHP had called a bandh, Sanjay and Sanjana (nee Sajida, who changed her religion to marry Sanjay) Kadia were at the National Handloom Expo 2002, trying to protect their stall from possible attacks. Then the killings – in retaliation to the attack on the train at Godhra – started. The mob descended on the handloom fair in the afternoon.

The fair at the University Ground was an easy target. Not only were the stall-owners, a medley of traders and craftsmen who move from fair to fair all over the country, unprepared for the attack, there were many members from the minority community among them.

As the mob, shouting “India zindabad, Pakistan murdabad”, set fire to the rolls of fabrics, burned everything down and threatened to slit the throat of anybody they suspected of being “anti-Hindu”, Sanjay, with encouragement from Sanjana, swung into action.

The young couple had become friendly with many of the stall-owners. As the possible victims stood trembling, Sanjay sneaked out with four or five of them and bundled all of them on his one scooter and took them home to his small flat in Vyas Vadi. He came back, again piled four or five of them on his scooter, and went home.

Sanjay carried 20 people to safety. “Every time I came back, I saw attacks going on in the streets,” Sanjay said.

Sixteen of the people he had rescued stayed over in his flat. The remaining four, all of them Hindus, were put in the “safer” neighbourhood of his mother’s flat. The tradesmen stayed the night, huddled in one room, till one of the couple’s acquaintances threatened to inform the VHP.

The Kadias called the police and the “rescued” were dropped at five in the morning, under cover of darkness, to the safety of a relief camp. “We taught them to shout Jai Ram in case there was any trouble. We were prepared to put tikas on their foreheads,” Sanjana said.

The traders, mostly from Hyderabad, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, got the few sarees and clothes that could be retrieved from the burnt ground today. The ones from Hyderabad are leaving for Mumbai tonight.

“Sanjayji was a god-send. He saved our lives,” said Mohammad Ismail, a cotton cloth merchant from Hyderabad who has lost Rs 5.5 lakh at the fair. Mohammad Afsar, his companion at the relief camp, blesses the Kadias with tears in his eyes.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Sanjay said. But it fits in with his previous act, his marriage with Sanjana.

Sanjay and Sanjana, then Sajida, met while they were studying law. They fell in love, but both sets of parents were enraged. Sanjay and Sajida were disowned.

Ironically, the VHP had a hand in their “secular” mission. “Contacts” in the parishad helped them to get married at Arya Samaj, after Sajida became Sanjana. “I had always wanted to become Hindu. I had wanted the two of us to follow one religion,” Sanjana said. Sanjay admits having been close to the VHP before he met Sanjana.

“Religion doesn’t make any difference,” he said, as he sat surrounded by the remaining bundles of cloth retrieved from the fair. He thinks of ways to reach them to the rightful owners, as Sanjana goes inside to look after their one-and-a-half-year-old son.

[This one from March 2, 2002]

Hindus protect mosque in Bihar

Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna

While Gujarat was burning, a small town in Bihar set an example of communal amity, when a group of Hindus got together and protected a mosque from being vandalised.

During Friday’s bandh in Muzzaffarpur, called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to protest the Godhra carnage, a group of hooligans tried to enter the Company Bagh mosque and vandalise it.

A senior police official, who was present on the spot when the incident occurred, said that when the word spread about the bid by the hooligans to enter the mosque, almost 100 Hindus converged on the spot from the nearby Goriamath and Sariyaganj area and challenged them.

A tussle broke out in which quite few Hindus were injured while guarding the mosque, but the hooligans had to beat a hasty retreat in face of stiff resistance, he said.

By the time police reinforcement came in, the hooligans had done the vanishing act.

Muzzafarpur has the distinction of never having witnessed a communal riot.

“Thanks to timely intervention of local Hindus a major incident was averted,” a senior police officer said, heaving a sigh of relief.

[This one also from March 2, 2002]

Muslim woman comes to Hindus’ rescue

Press Trust of India

Ahmeabad, March 2: Three Hindus, two cameramen and a driver of a television agency, owe their life to the compassion of a Muslim woman, who remained untouched by the communal virus of hatred.

If Amit Rathore, Sushil Parikh (cameramen of a private television agency) and their driver Manohar Singh are alive today, they owe their lives to this Muslim woman of Danilimda area, whose name unfortunately they do not know.

“We were at Danilimda area of the city on February 27 and were caught in the crossfire between the two communities. Our car and camera were set on fire by a mob even as another group burnt alive three persons in front our eyes” , Rathore told PTI in presence of police commissioner P C Pandey.

Rathore said the woman gave them food and water and told them not to worry. She had a family including four girls and her husband. Asked whether the woman knew they were Hindus, Rathore answered in the affirmative saying the Muslim woman and her family were quite “untouched” by the hatred pervading the city.

They were finally rescued by Pandey, who personally went to Danilimda. Asked about the incident, the city police chief said he only did his duty and gave full credit to the Muslim woman who by giving the three mediamen shelter for four hours when everything was burning around saved them.

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