Bilkis Convicts’ Remission Revives 2002 Memories For Gujarat Muslims; Read Full News!

All vehicular entrances to Naroda and Naroda Patiya were barricaded on Friday. Police presence in these areas of Ahmedabad, which saw the worst of the 2002 Gujarat riots, is usually associated with something ominous.

But, on Friday, it was for a fun fair on the streets of Naroda, where children jumped on trampolines, a young girl walked on a tightrope mesmerizing onlookers, while adults bought various items from stalls set up on the pavement.

Amid a raging controversy over the release of 11 convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, life continued as normal in Naroda and Naroda Patia — where an armed mob of about 5,000 killed more than 97 people during the 2002 riots.

Muslim families in the neighborhood were angered by the Gujarat government’s decision to pardon 11 accused in the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano in Randhikpur, about 174 km away. But, Naroda-Naroda has seen two decades of peace since the Patiya riots and with the wounds of 2002 still raw, residents don’t want to risk rocking the boat.

Hussaina Mansoori, whose house had been reduced to a rubble in 2002 said, “We feel bad about what happened with Bilkis Bano. But, we can’t do anything about it. If Allah wills it she will get justice.”

A mob in the village of Randhikpur in Gujarat gang-raped Bano and, according to the prosecution, killed fourteen members of her family — including her three-year-old daughter Saleha — as they fled during the Godhra riots in March 2002. Bano was 19, and five months pregnant at the time. The Gujarat government’s 11 convictions come in a year when the state will elect a new assembly.

Hussaina said that Bano’s case brought back memories of her own tragedy, “We will never forget. They came in the dead of the night carrying stones, knives, sickles. They blasted our house by setting fire at the cooking gas outlet. Back then, there were fewer houses in the mohalla (colony) and so there were four or five ways out. We ran for our lives.”

Babubhai Adi Moosabhai Karwan said, “Many who lost their livelihoods simply left. Over a period of time, the neighbourhood has shrunk. Some who stayed back are sending their children to other places in Gujarat. There is peace, but there is also fear. We are tired of talking about the situation here. Nothing is going to change.”