The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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South salve for orphans

Hyderabad, Aug. 22: I am happy to be away from the slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’, ‘Jai Hanuman’. I dread the day my house was attacked and our belongings, including my new books and uniforms, were burnt.

The horror of Gujarat still haunts 11-year-old Abdul Hameed but he has found a new school and shelter in Hyderabad.

Hameed is among the first batch of 41 children brought to Hyderabad as part of a drive to rehabilitate the orphans left behind by the Gujarat riots.

The school which has given refuge to the children is run by the Muslim Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (Mesco). K.A. Sattar Khan, who heads Mesco in Hyderabad, said 45 more children would be brought to Hyderabad soon. “Most of them are either 12 or younger,” he added.

The Mesco school, located in Old Hyderabad, follows the state government syllabus. However, the load on the 41 children has been kept at the minimum and they are now being taught only three subjects — English, mathematics and science.

The Chandrababu Naidu government has given permission for the children’s admission in some of the schools run by the Mesco and other minority institutions the state.

Junior colleges in the city are also trying to accommodate a group of 25 students from Gujarat.

The children who came with Hameed said they hid themselves in dark houses for weeks before voluntary organisations turned up with food and clothes. “The organisations held some classes just to know what we wanted,” said 12-year-old Arif Mohammad from Ahmedabad.

Some like Fayaz Ali are still in a state of shock. “My school, along with my teacher and attender, was burnt in front of my eyes. I could do nothing but cry but that did not affect the attackers,” Ali said and broke down.

Khan said the Gujarati Sarvajanik Welfare Trust is also helping in rehabilitating the children as well as unemployed elders who were affected by the riots.

“We do not aim to set up any camps. But we will support the families with basic necessities support facilities till they could stand on their own feet,” he added.

The Mesco had organised last month weddings of 20 couples who were uprooted by the violence last month. “Even the youths do not want to return to Gujarat. They wish to settle down in Hyderabad or any other southern state,” Khan said.

“We all pray that our relatives are safe and well. We hope sanity has returned to our erstwhile neighbours and finally that our chief minister (Narendra Modi) will vow one day that he will take care of us as well,” said 18-year-old Aftab Ali, who has set up a small textile business in Sultan Bazar here.

The Naidu government has welcomed the children but it is keen to distance itself from a perception that the state is fast becoming a haven for refugees.

The government had turned down an appeal by ad guru Alyque Padamsee for land to set up a colony for the riot victims of Gujarat.

Andhra Pradesh already hosts refugee camps for Bangladeshis and Tamils from Sri Lanka.

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