After being holed up at home the whole day, watching the depressing news on the TV, we decide to go out for a breather. We are cruising on the Highway, myself ,hubby and kids when we come across a line of trucks being burnt. We pass them, counting the number of trucks being burnt…4, 5, 6 and combined with the smell of burnt rubber, metal and wood is another stench. The smell of burnt human flesh...we double take, God! Hubby turns the bike around and we take a detour. The horror of it fills us with dread and also saddens us. Everywhere we go, we come across stores and restaurants being burnt. The riots and massacre which happened due to Godhra carnage was just beginning to unfold, in a gruesome way.
As a small girl, I remember asking my dad as to why there were no earthquakes or floods in Bangalore? He replied, that Bangalore is so situated, above the sea level, that these things were not a possibility. My dad’s answer seemed to quieten my young mind. By a quirk turn of fate, I had seen them all by the age of 30! The killer Cyclone, as it was called, that hit the coast of Kutch in 1998, resulting in floods over many parts of the state including Ahmadabad. The devastating earthquake of 2001, the monstrous human act following the Godhra carnage of 2002, and many more…It is joke in my family, that wherever I go, bad luck follows.
Barely a year after people had come to terms with death and loss caused by the earthquake, another tragedy struck the people of Gujarat. This time nature was a mute spectator for man’s atrocities. There was no limit to the crime and cruelty man inflicted on his fellow human beings. Every political party provoked and participated in this game of death! People crazed with the idea of religion and revenge played ‘tandav’ of death. And, more than 1,200 people paid with their lives- a price for either being a Hindu or a Muslim.
THE INCIDENT – We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. The riots were into its 3rd or 4th day. Curfew was clamped over the city and we just wanted to unwind and relax for some time. Post dinner, we were returning home at around 10.30pm, there were men on the streets with lathi’s and choicest of weapons in their hands. Hubby, floored the accelerator of the car. Little luck! Few hundred meters later we were stopped by a group of men, who surrounded the car. We were too dumbfounded to react, too scared even to breath. We were facing our worst nightmare!! A guy approached and asked – “Hindu or Muslim?” My husband said- “Hindu” and phew! We were let through. It is difficult to describe in words the dread we felt. My dad, who was with us, started praying; my hubby’s knuckles were white gripping the steering wheel, kids huddled in my lap and me hugging them. We let out a collective ‘sigh’ when we reached home, too shaken to speak anything. Later, we came to know it was rumored that truck loads of Muslim men were coming towards ‘our’ part of the city and so smelling blood, every sworn Hindu was manning the streets.
This picture says it all. The iconic photograph - THE FACE OF GHODRA RIOTS.
27th February, 2011- A special court ordered death by hanging for 11 people and awarded life terms to 20 others for burning coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002. This might have come as solace to the families of those who were killed in the train.
But as always, justice was delayed and denied to all those who died as a repercussion of the train burning incident. The real murderers, ‘the mob’, are still scot free! The verdict, does it make any difference to those people who were burnt alive? Does this make any difference to those babies who were killed in their mothers’ womb, without getting to see the light of the day? Would this have made any difference to those women who were gang-raped and killed in the name of religion? Will this make any difference to those children who were orphaned? The thousands of people who fled, will they get back their lives, their dignity, and their home? OR would this verdict have made any sense to me or to my family, if we were stopped by Muslims on that fateful night?