I don’t know from where to begin this story. There are thousands of images which float by. An image appears for a split of a second and then disappears. Some images and memories stay so long that they haunt. Sometimes I try to run away from the stories and images but they don’t leave. I fight with my own self, running away from these images is betraying the victims, on other occasions I feel my brim is full I cannot retain any more.
Every journey into writing is an emotional journey into the stories of a besieged community and the apathy of the state and the nation.
I often wonder how these women retained sanity.
A mother hiding in bushes, clutching her two children close to her chest while her elder daughter was being brutalized, stripped naked, gang raped; her breasts cut off and burnt to death. The helplessness of the mother, the choice of being killed herself along with the two children or letting the daughter be massacred without registering a protest haunts me. In the initial months every time I met her she kept mumbling,’ I am ashamed to be a mother; I am ashamed to be a mother’.
A mother carrying her unborn five month baby inside her womb, carrying another three year old with her, fleeing from the mobs runs for safety to a village which is 5-6 kms away, gets shelter is asked to leave early morning, reaches an Adivasi village, after two days again on the move but not lucky enough to escape this time. The younger daughter is killed on the spot and mother gang raped and left considered as dead. The mother survives and so does the five month old baby inside her womb. On July 5, 2002 around noon I reach the hospital the baby, just two hours old, sleeps peacefully beside her mother. I see a smile on the mother’s face for the first time in all those months.
Another mother is beaten severely inside her own house. These are not VHP goons; these are men in uniform and the year in 2009 and not 2002. She is kicked on her private parts with boots. She has a 18 day old baby. Snatching the baby from the mother, the baby is thrown to the ground. The mother bleeds heavily and finally losses consciousness. Eleven other women face the same ire from the local police. The reasons can be any. Right now the police are frustrated as someone whom they had arrested got down from their motorcycle and walked away while they were taking him to the police station. So they arrive in nearly 25vehicles start breaking the doors of residential homes, break vehicles, and enter 12 homes, attack women and children, molest women, arrest them and take them away. Its only next evening that the magistrate orders a medical test but the doctor is too frightened to take a stand so no lady doctor is found to examine the women.
Khatoon takes food for her sons on her visit to the jail the police officer pushes it away with his shoes, scattering the entire meal on the floor. She had perhaps saved money from her own meal to be able to bring this for the sons. Two of her younger sons are moved and she is not informed where they have been moved to. She keeps searching for them. Then the third son is also moved. For three months she has no clue where the sons have gone. She goes almost insane searching for them. Finally her elder son manages to write to her and informs her that they are in Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad. Shamsher Khan, Siddique Khan and Nasir Khan are released after nine years. They have been declared innocent. What about those nine years of humiliation, torture, want, hunger, separation, a mother’s sufferings?
Yasmin Bano’s body is waiting for her last journey, her four children crying bitterly hoping Abba would come at least for the funeral but parole is denied. Was it just some skin decease because of which Yasmin died or did she succumb to grief? Her husband Hanif Abdul Razak had a business of manufacturing school bags. The crime branch police officials took him as well as his younger brother from the house at about 3:00 AM on March 27, 2003 with the promise to release them the next day.
Both the brothers are separated and beaten severely for almost two and a half hours. In the morning, they are put together and the police officers then debate whom they should implicate in a case. Ashok Singhal, one of the police officers proposes they should implicate the elder brother, as he is the only earning member in the family. Both are detained illegally for 12 days without being produced before the court, are regularly physically tortured by the police. Hanif is harassed to agree to every condition otherwise be prepared that younger brother would be booked in the same case.
On April 9, 2003 Hanif is produced in the court, before the Metropolitan Magistrate. He is granted fifteen days of police remand. During that time, they subject him to excessive torture. They strip him completely, lower him down into a tank full of water and then give him electric shocks on the sensitive parts of the body. They ask him to admit that he had made the Tiffin bombs, or else his body might succumb to severe torture.
After the 15 days of police remand he is produced again before the court. The Magistrate, already has a statement under the section 164 of IPC that Hanif is asked to sign. Hanif however, refuses to sign the statement arguing that he has not committed any crime. The magistrate then turns to the police officers and says, ‘Take him back for another day, see that he doesn’t refuse to sign tomorrow’. As instructed, Hanif is brutally tortured all night and therefore does not resist any longer. He finally succumbs and signs the statement under the section 164 of IPC in the court the next day. Based on that statement, the court sentences him to ten years of imprisonment on May 15, 2005.
Hanif was neither granted parole when his mother died on Jan 4, 2007 nor on May 13, 2008 when Yasmin, his wife died. No mother with a Muslim name can sleep peacefully in Modi’s vibrant Gujarat.
Niaz Apa lived in village Ognaz in Daskroi taluka. She had a fairly big house in her village and 18 Gunthas of agricultural land touching the road. Her house was attacked, looted and destroyed in 2002. Her granddaughter Farheen was playing outside the home when a petrol bomb was thrown towards the house. It came and fell in front of Farheen. Something seem to have frozen with in her mind since then. She has to be helped to walk even nine years after the incident, she cannot even see a stove burning, and no amount of treatment has helped so far, a child traumatized for life.
The family fled and spent 8 months in a relief camp. Niaz apa filed cases against the attackers naming them. They were all neighbours and land owners. She could not return to the village or cultivate the land, the condition was withdraw the cases. She tried giving the land for cultivation on commission (batai), the attackers again did not allow that till the cases were withdrawn. They threatened to destroy the crops if any such effort was made without compromising on the cases. Then Niaz apa tried to sell the land, the attackers threatened the buyers with dire consequences. Finally she sold the house and the land secretly on a throw away price much lower than the market rate. Like 5000 other families she lives in Gujarat as an internally displaced person in a small room in one of the make shift colonies built by various NGOs for the internally displaced. There are many others who compromised and went back to the villages living next to the rapists, murderers and looters.
Rashida Ansari lived in Ootwali chali in Behrampura, Ahmedabad. Her colony was attacked, looted and burnt down, Rashida fled with her family, Junaid was 9 years, Ibrahim 8 and Javed only 6. They asked the police to help them but police only fired at the people trying to escape the attacking mobs. It was just their sheer luck that the family was not hurt. She spent 6 months in camp in Jamalpur which ran in a school building. The camps were forcibly closed down after 4 months and she still had nowhere to go. She tried going back to where she lived. A wall was built to block the way to where once the Muslim families lived. Rashida tried to take another route to her house but immediately a small mob collected and they took out swords. Rashida had to run for her life never to return to that area again. She erected a small chappar in a corner and spent another two months under that.
While still at the camp she came to know about a meeting taking place at the Behavioral Science Centre. She decided to go there and what she heard there was absolutely new and amazing. She met people who talked about justice and equality, about the dream of building a society without hatred. There were more Hindus in that meeting than Muslims. She had seen only the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS brand so far who used religion to spread hatred. She was happy to meet so many Hindus who believed that her right to the nation and citizenship was as much as theirs.
Rashida decided to join this fight. Her family was very supportive but there were the conservative Muslim organisations who objected to Rashida doing this work. There were pressures to wear burqa and remain in the confines of the household but these voices in Gujarat were feeble and are still feeble as compared to states where Muslim conservative sections have been stronger.
In the coming days Rashida had become a part of Aman Samudaya. She joined the teams working in various relief camps, filing police cases, doing surveys, fighting for the rights of victims. Now Rashida fights for all the underprivileged.
Every story that I narrate reminds of hundred similar stories.
Certificates for Modi from Vastanvi and the likes have not changed the reality on the ground.
In a State where stray dogs from the cities are caught by the municipalities only to be let off in the early hours of the morning in Muslim bastis what justice can you dream off?
It is the enthusiasm and conviction of a few to resist which keeps the hope alive, though the rays of hope to overcome this madness are becoming blurred with every passing day.
March 14, 2011
Note From TLW: I ripped this off Facebook and posted it here because I have no interest in spending anytime on Facebook, and this through twitter and open hyperlinks, should be available on the open net. I really don't like Facebook.