Rehabilitation gets under way in Marad

KOZHIKODE OCT. 10. The much-awaited return of the natives has started in Marad.The members of 71 Muslim families, who had fled Marad village in the wake of the May 2 massacre, were escorted by Sarvodaya volunteers back to their homes under a Government-sponsored resettlement programme today.

The first phase of the rehabilitation conducted today took place in Chulliyamvalappil, about one km away from Marad, since it was considered a comparatively less sensitive region.

Tomorrow, the rehabilitation programme will be undertaken in and around the Marad region where the Hindu families still mourning the death of their dear ones reside.

The resettlement is part of a package evolved at the initiative of the Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi to restore peace in Marad.

The Kozhikode Collector, T. O. Sooraj, who is supervising the rehabilitation process, said that 84 more families would be brought back to their homes tomorrow and the rest, now staying in relief camps in nearby Chaliyam and Kappakkal, in the following days.

Caution is the guiding principle of the rehabilitation exercise. The Hindu families in Marad, aggrieved at the loss of eight members of their community, were till the other day averse to the idea of allowing the Muslims to return to their midst. Their attitude softened only after their grievances were addressed at themediatory talks held in the presence of the Chief Minister last week.

A strong police force led by the DIG (Northern range), N. Sankar Reddy, and the City Police Commissioner, T. K. Vinod Kumar, was at the scene of the rehabilitation today.

The families returning were given free provisions for a week, firewood and some essential household articles. The district authorities had cleaned the wells and repaired the houses damaged by mobs after the massacre.

Before being taken to their homes, the Muslim families were advised by the president of the Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi, P. Gopinathan Nair, and the Collector to take care to maintain cordial relations with their neighbours as "petty quarrels may develop into a major confrontation once again.''

"Do not get provoked under any circumstances. Remember, your neighbours have not recovered from the loss of their dear ones'', they were told as they got ready to leave for their homes from the Government School at Payyanakkal.

Sherifa Ibrahim, eager to go back to her home, did not expect to encounter any problems there. She has been staying in Chulliyamvalappil for several years with her children. Her husband is away in Dubai.

Ramila and Kacheebi who were also preparing to return to their own homes in Chulliyamvalappil did not have any worries though their husbands were away in Gulf countries.

The authorities heaved a sigh of relief as the resettlement process went on smoothly today. Two attempts made by the Government earlier had to be abandoned in the face of strong protests from the Hindu women in Marad, who had taken the stance that the return of the Muslims should not be allowed before a CBI inquiry was ordered into the massacre. But the story today was different. Some Hindu families even came forward to offer cooking vessels to the Muslim families. 0However, there were a few who chose to ignore the returning Muslim families.

Representatives of Gandhian organisations opened a 10-day camp today to carry on a campaign, which they hoped would help remove the suspicion and mistrust that still divide the two communities.

The success of the rehabilitation exercise is crucial to the UDF Government.

The long delay in facilitating rehabilitation had angered powerful Muslim organisations and that it in turn had strained the relationship between the Chief Minister and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), second biggest constituent in the ruling UDF.