The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naroda widows court death

Ahmedabad, March 11: For 40-year-old Noorjahan and other widows of Jawaharnagar in Naroda-Patia, their relocation to the newly-built Faizal Park Society in Vatva on the outskirts of the city has been a journey to despondency.

So deep is their agony that many have developed suicidal tendencies. “They are so depressed and the suicidal tendencies so apparent that it has caused serious concern,” says Monica, a social worker helping riot victims in Vatva.

The fate of these widows — some of them as young as 22 — seems to be sealed with everyone, including the government and NGOs, leaving them in the lurch.

A mother of four, Noorjahan lives in a one-room tenement with her mother-in-law. “I feel like committing suicide,” she says. “Man karta hai bachon ko suladu aur phir khud sau jawu hamesa ke liya (I feel like giving poison to my kids and then killing myself).”

Iyesha’s husband was one of the first victims of the riots in Naroda-Patia on February 28 last year. But she is yet to get any money from the state government, though others were given Rs 90,000.

Iyesha has been running from pillar to post, but her efforts have yielded only promises. She had also borrowed money in the hope that she would repay it once she gets the compensation, which seems impossible now.

An NGO has allotted one-room houses to 11 widows and 34 families who do not want to return to Naroda–Patia.

Sewa, another NGO, has provided sewing machines to the widows. But that was not what they wanted. These widows were looking for work that they are trained in. As a result, they are sitting idle. “This has caused immense frustration among these women,” says Monica.

Dhulekhan Begum, known to be the most skilled among the widows, is also sitting idle. In Naroda-Patia, she used to be very busy. But she has not even managed to get a job worth Rs 200 in the last three months.

Many of these widows, like Zubeda and Bibi Bano, had no problem finding work before the riots broke out. They wonder why the Hindu traders are no longer willing to employ them.

Hum bahut pareshan hai. Besahara ho gaye. Marneki bat dil mein aati hai. (We are very worried. We are helpless. We think of committing suicide),” says Noorjahan as tears well up.

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