In 2002, life had just begun to smile for these two young women of Bengali descent, married to two brothers, Fateh-ur-Rehman and Mohammed Siddiqui, both teachers. The men were shot in cold blood, eyewitnesses later told the women. A local charity provided Sahaliya with the one-room house where she now stays, in the Muslim enclave of Juhapura on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. She now works as a domestic help to support her two school-going children. "I belonged to a middle-class family. Cleaning homes and utensils did not come easy to me. But we have to survive," says Sahaliya. She trudges almost five kilometres to work in two homes for Rs 800 a month. "Everyday I pray that there are leftovers in these homes that I can bring home for my children," she says.
Firoza Banu’s plight is no better. Nor is Yasmin’s, who had just delivered her fourth child when police allegedly took her husband, Mehboob, a foreman at an automobile workshop, to the terrace of their home and shot him. "Life became a terrible struggle after that, somehow I have clung to my sanity and managed to survive," she says. Another survivor of the riots, getting on by sheer will-power, is 35-year-old Khalid. An electrician, he was shot through the spine by the police in the infamous Naroda Patiya neighbourhood. Botched up medical treatment left him paralysed, waist down. From sole bread-earner for the family, he became a virtual vegetable. Painfully, he has picked up the threads, and trained himself to move around. "We have no hope from the Modi government, but the central government should do something for us. We need employment, not alms," he says. That Hindus fight shy of employing Muslims is an unstated reality of life in Gujarat.
The Modi government’s callousness towards the riot-affected has spawned so many such heart-rending stories that there can never be enough space to narrate them all. "They shut down relief camps, throwing people on the streets when they had no place to go," says Zakia Jowhar, president of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. It was community charity organisations like the Islamic Relief Committee that stepped forward to provide a semblance of shelter to the riot-hit.
Juhapura enclave is now their sanctuary. From retired judges and bureaucrats to the lowly handcart-wallah, Muslims find security here—but not much else. Five lakh people live here, twice the population of Gandhinagar, but squeezed into an area less than one-fourth the size of the state capital. Civic amenities are virtually non-existent, and even nationalised banks fight shy of giving loans here. Water comes largely through borewells, there is no drainage, and internal roads are virtually non-existent. Juhapura is a blot on the face of 60-year-old India.