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No residents in Gulbarg, only bills

Ahmedabad, Nov. 9: Gulbarg Society shows no signs of life. The burnt houses waiting to be renovated stand testimony to the murder of Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri and 42 other residents of this upmarket complex during the post-Godhra riots.

A few kilometres away, the biggest massacre site wears a new look. All the houses in Naroda-Patia have been rebuilt and nearly 80 per cent of the survivors have come back to restart their lives.

But Gulbarg, once a prestigious address for the minority community with nine bungalows and eight flats, remains a ghost society. Two police constables guard the complex, where there is nothing left to be protected.

Gulbarg, however, is not a ghost colony for the Ahmedabad Electricity Company. The power utility continues to send bills to the bungalows, where there are hardly any meters left.

Last month, the electricity supply company sent a bill for Rs 15,999 to 10 Gulbarg Society — the residence of Taiyab- hai Khambhati — though no one lives there any more. Khambhati’s house is not the only one to which bills are regularly sent.

Those who had fled the society after the February 28 massacre have no intention of resettling there as they feel the complex — surrounded by majority community areas — is no longer safe. Most of them now live in Juhapura, a locality sought after by the minority community. Some have moved to Bapunagar and other places to stay with their relatives.

Mohammed Sharif Sheikh, 45, who had a flourishing electronics business, was the neighbour of the slain Congress leader. Sheikh, who owned five shops, sold them to a member of the majority community six months ago.

“I realise there is no point waiting endlessly in the hope that some day people would come back to stay in Gulbarg Society. Nobody is ready (to do so now). Even poor members of the community living in surrounding chawls have shif-ted to safer localities,” said Sheikh.

Non-government organisations did approach the residents of the society with a promise to rebuild their houses.

At least three conducted surveys and prepared detailed estimates of the expenses that would be incurred. However, these promises turned out to be false, says Sheikh, who feels betrayed by members of his own community.

Nasrin Jafri, the US-based daughter of the slain Congress leader, set up the Jafri Foundation and collected money for the renovation. Her brother, Tanvir, soon informed the society members that Nasrin had collected enough money in the US but was facing problems in transferring the funds to India. He, however, assured them that this would soon be sorted out.

When Nasrin visited Ahmedabad a few months later, she gave a lot of money to some religious organisations and some relief camps. However, she told the members of Gulbarg Society that she had no money to spare for the renovation of their houses.

Now the residents of the society have decided to issue an appeal in newspapers requesting those who might have donated money to contact them so that NGOs with dubious intentions can be exposed.

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