Thursday, February 9, 2012

Polls 2012: Muslims in Meerut still nurse wounds of two-decade old riots - By Iftekhar Gilani - DNA

Polls 2012: Muslims in Meerut still nurse wounds of two-decade old riots
Published: Thursday, Feb 9, 2012, 9:00 IST
By Iftikhar Gilani | Place: Meerut | Agency: DNA

Emerging from a printing press, with ink soaked hands and drenched clothes, Iqbal Ahmed can be taken for any other labourer. But he is a medical graduate; his life totally changed 25 years ago when he was among the hundred-odd picked up from Hashimpura locality of Meerut when it was engulfed in the worst-ever communal riots.

He was a lucky one to be taken to jail. For, others were shot dead and thrown into the Upper Ganges and the Hindon Canal allegedly by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of UP.

Iqbal’s life was so battered that he became mentally wreck and could not continue practicing medicine.

This communally sensitive western UP is now calm. The bloody riots in 1989 sent the Congress packing out of power in the state.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi may be trying hard to re-build the party edifice, enticing various communities including Muslims, but the residents here are hardly in a mood to forgive his party.

In the dingy alley of Hashimpura, there are few takers for the Congress’s promises of employment opportunities for youth and quotas for minorities and free electricity connections to the poor. 

“What we need is justice and security and not doles,” says Laiq Ahmed, president of the local unit of Muslim Majlis.

Shrieks of 70-year-old Peeru, a walking skeleton, rents the allies of Hashimpura as she recounts how her 16-year-old son Nizamudin was dragged and pushed into a PAC truck. Mentally disturbed, she still awaits the return of her son.

Jamaludin Ansari (75) recalls that even BJP leader LK Advani had sympathised with them when he visited the area and was confronted with the story. Then a owner of a roaring scissor manufacturing business, Ansari is now meeting both ends by running a small shop inside his dingy hovel.

His 22-year-old son Qamruddin was killed in cold blood. He even didn’t get his body, despite identifying his clothes in Kotwali.

“Since then everything got shattered. My customers were mostly Hindus, they refused to visit my factory out of fear and prejudice,” says the old man.

Unlike Gujarat, where hordes of NGOs have descended to seek justice for the 2002 riots victims, old and frail residents of Hashimpura and Maliana localities, whose sons were killed 25 years ago, are left to their own to pursue the case in Delhi’s Tis Hazari court, which recently concluded examining the 91st witness.

The anger against the Congress is palpable. “We will never forgive the party till we get justice,” says Ansari, only to add in the same breath that other secular parties like the SP and the BSP have also looked the other way, not even initiating disciplinary actions against the PAC personnel.

Out of the five survivors of the bloodshed, Babudin, now 43, shows three bullet marks on his body — the PAC had picked him up from his house and fired at him.

Now as stakes run high in the UP elections, the issue hardly finds reverberations in the poll lexicons of the Congress and the SP, who are pitted against each other in the Muslim dominated seat.

After delimitation, Hashimpura has been merged with Meerut cantonment, thus saving local Congress candidate Yusuf Qureshi from their wreath. Qureshi, a lawyer and PhD, is pitted against SP’s Rafiq Ansari. It has sharply divided Muslims on caste lines.

While butchers and those associated with meat business are backing Qureshi, weavers, labourers and others are vouching for Ansari. Meat shop owners ask their customers to vote for Qureshi.

But hardly the issue of Hashimpur figures in the lexicon. The role of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in the past, which is supposed to be favourably inclined to Muslims, did nothing for getting justice done in the case.

The incident which sealed the fate of the Congress finds no mention in the manifestos. Justice still seems a faraway proposition for the victims of Hashimpura.

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