The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minorities brace for ‘dark’ days

Ahmedabad, Dec. 15: Shameem Banu smiles when she talks about murder. She has seen so much of it that with every passing day it matters less and less so long as she returns home to her three daughters. Home for Shameem is Shah-e-Alam mosque where the relief camp set up for the refugees of Naroda Patia still hosts seven families.

“I saw babies being picked up and hurled into the fire” — she has often told the story. The narration comes out of her as if by rote. “I went back to Naroda to vote. To what effect' We Muslims have ceased to matter.”

The results were still trickling in. The scale of the BJP’s victory was not known but it was clear the party would form the next government on its own steam. “Give us women just an hour,” Shameem said. “In one hour, we will set things right. We know who did what and who did not do what should have been done.”

Sulemanbhai Mohmed’s world came crashing down as he learnt that the BJP had swept the polls. He was dreaming of returning to restart his life in Chamanpur. Perhaps, he will not settle in Chamanpur, the place he left on February 28 to take shelter in a relief camp.

He is one of the 256 inmates of Qureshi Jamat Hall, an unofficial relief camp, who had mustered enough courage to go to Chamanpur on December 12 to vote, but realised they were not welcome. “Seeing me standing in the queue at the polling booth, a Bajrang Dal activist threatened me ‘I will cut you into pieces if you decide to return’,” he said. It haunts him and leaves him and the others helpless, hopeless.

“The people who attacked us have come to power. They will butcher us. We have nowhere to go,” says Shamsherbhai Shaikh, who also lives in the camp.

Confirming their worst fear, violence erupted in Vadodara and Ahmedabad as the poll results poured in. Indefinite curfew was clamped in the communally-sensitive Raopura area of Vadodara when people of two communities clashed after the victory of a BJP candidate. Police lobbed teargas shells as people in Ahmedabad’s Dhalgarvad neighbourhood threw stones at a victory procession taken out by supporters of BJP candidate Kaushik Patel.

“These are early signs of the dark days ahead,” said Prof. J.S. Bandukwala, who is based in Vadodara.

When asked this afternoon if he sensed the level of insecurity among Muslims, an indignant Narendra Modi said: “I appeal to you, please do not seek to divide Gujarat. I have always talked of the five crore people of this state.”

Modi was careful not to utter the word ‘Hindutva’ even once. “That is for political pundits to talk about and analyse.”

There is a doubt in the BJP regarding the interpretation of its election mandate. Just outside the party headquarters as Modi was being mobbed by supporters and smeared with red powder, Ahmedabad youth BJP vice-president Jabbar Singh Shekhawat was saying: “Do you doubt the Hindutva factor' This is a vote for Hindutva. I live in Kalupur (a seat the Congress has retained) and I know all about these wretched minorities.”

Elsewhere, Praveen Togadia was saying the Gujarat elections will pave the road for a Hindu rashtra in two years.

Fear enveloped Ahmedabad’s Muslim-dominated localities — Dariapur, Berampur and Khanpur (which houses the state BJP headquarters) — as the day grew and it became more and more apparent that Modi had won an unprecedented victory for the BJP.

Modi appealed to his supporters to celebrate the victory with “restraint, peacefully and in a spirit of brotherhood”. “To my opponents I say there is no full stop in politics,” he said.

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