March 06, 2012

#DDGujDiary #4, Ahmedabad camp

A fourth installment of notes from my trip diary from Gujarat, 2002. These are from a visit to a camp for victims in Ahmedabad. (I tweeted them using the tag #DDGujDiary).


* In Ahmedabad, we stop outside a shopping complex that is burned down (maybe looted too?). Nobody else on the road stops. It's been burned, but life around it goes on.

* A sixty year-old in the camp used to be a watchman in a building. A mob of 5000, he thinks, surrounded the building and began throwing stones at it. He and his wife ran away.

* He shows me a "Rahat Chhavninoon Hangami" card that he says the Government gave him because of the violence. "What's it for?" he asks. I can't answer because I don't know what this means, or of this card distribution programme.

* Outside the camp, I notice this large banner: "Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Gujarat, At Your Service."

* Two women I speak to were driven by a mob from their homes in Guptanagar. They went back there to look, a couple of days later. All the houses in the area, including theirs, were burned down. "It doesn't look like a place to live", says one. "There were people standing there with lathis and swords," they tell me, "and they told us to get out."

* Later, the Army took the women and their families back again. This time, they were able to approach their once-homes. Where they could, they put locks on the doors. Then they came back to the camp.

* Kudratbano, 35, saw her brother, his wife and their six children burned alive in Naroda-Patia. The mob that did this "came from four sides", she says.

* Ishu, the son of her other brother, was hit with sticks and thrown on a garbage dump. He lived. He shows me the scars on his head.

* His two year-old brother [looks like I didn't record his name] was burned.

* Just outside this camp as we leave, a young man yells at us. "We don't want your peace committee!" -- and he and a few others start throwing stones at us. Small stones, but it's frightening anyway. "Take your peace nonsense [shanti bakwas is the phrase I remember clearly] to the RSS!" they shout, still throwing stones. In the distance, at the end of a long road we had walked down to get to the camp, I can see the stones have broken a few windows on our bus.

* I'm walking to the buses alongside a monk from our party, young man dressed in saffron robes. Young men point at him, pick up stones. I have no clue what to do, but there's only seconds to think about it, because ...

* ... a young woman on a scooter drives up beside us. "Get on behind me!" she orders the monk, quiet but urgent. "Get on right now! I'll take you out!"

* The monk sits sideways on her pillion seat. She revs her engine and zips him through the milling shouting crowds to the bus. I see him clambering in. I'm alone, but nobody is interested in me. I run to the bus. Getting on, I see her. There's time to shout: "What's your name?"

* I've said it silently and often in these ten years, and I'll say it here: Thank you, Mumtaz, for being brave. For being human. For being human in a time, in a place, where so many others weren't.

1 comment:

Jai_C said...

my recollections from the last time i read about this scooterist rescue on your blog:

- stones were not described as small (or at least i didnt get that impression)

- there was a feeling of more danger or impending harm that i got from the piece (this could be because as a first reading i didnt know hiw it would go but this is a re-read)

- there was more of a direct link to the fact that your companion wore saffron and that seemed to set the stoner crowd off.

- there was a reference to the saffron monk being buddhist, or not hindu, which for some reason felt out of place.

- there was no reference to the broken panes in the bus (that i remember). from current reading, its a little surprising how the small stones broke the glass.

- it had seemed that the monk and you were targeted with actual thrown stones, not just pointed at.

- it had seemed that the lady had both of you on the pillion, not just the monk, or at least it was confusing. i remember thinking if she made 2 trips.