“There is nothing as tragic as a story left unheard or half said. At Gulberg we evoke a list of the missing. A roll call of remembrance, as faces, names, numbers. Each face a story, each name an act of story-telling, missing but not forgotten,” these words from a poster on the “Missing Person’s Wall” made by the survivors of the 2002 Gujarat riots suitably established the atmosphere for the “Conversation with the survivors of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society massacre” at Jamia Millia Islamia here on Wednesday.
While referring to witnesses and survivors of Naroda Patiya massacre who were in conversation with the students and civil society members, activist Teesta Setalvad said “these people are proof why the struggle for justice is worth it, even if it comes after a decade”.
An Ahmadabad special court had convicted 32 persons including the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and former Minister in the Narendra Modi government Maya Kodnani for the massacre in the Naroda area where 97 people were brutally killed in the 2002 post-Godhra violence.
“Had it not been for these people who faced the threats of the rioters and the accused in the Naroda Patiya case, people like Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani would not have been convicted,” said Ms. Setalvad, while adding that the Naroda Patiya case should also be known for the fact that it was one rare case where the narrative of gender violence returned and resulted in conviction of the perpetrators of sexual violence.
While recounting the horror and killings which they witnessed on the fateful night of February 28, 2002, the survivors highlighted one point quite forcefully -- the post-Godhra violence was bound to happen even if the unfortunate incident of Godhra burning incident would not have happened mainly because the “preparations” for the post-Godhra riots were happening for several days before the coach of Sabarmati express was burnt.
Referring to the fact that swords were being distributed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s cadres and arms and ammunitions were brought into Ahmadabad, they said several sophisticated weapons and bombs which cannot be made in just in one day, were used during the riots.
“How can it be that overnight thousands of gas bombs were made, swords distributed, and the Muslim households identified even in mixed colonies, which clearly indicate that the preparations were made much in advance,” said Rupa Modi who was with Ehsan Jafri till his last moment before he was brutally killed by the rioting mob in Gulberg society.
Another impassioned plea of the survivors was that “Please make sure that what we went through in 2002 does not happen again in this country”.
Shakila Bano, a survivor of the massacre who saw her two brothers, one sister-in-law and four innocent children getting brutally murdered in front of her eyes, was teary-eyed while remembering the killings. “What we lost in 2002, we cannot gain back our entire lives. What was our fault that we had to lose our loved ones? Were we not citizens of this country?”
Ameena Bahan, who had seen Maya Kodnani making the rounds when the riot started in Naroda Patiya and who later gave testimony against her, made it a point to highlight that she managed to save her life because of a Hindu boy who told the rioters that he knew her.
While referring to the survivors, Tanweer Fazal from the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association said they are fighting to keep the idea of India as a secular and democratic State alive.