Ahmedabad on the Edge

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“The local residents immediately surround us as we entered a small mohalla in Dariapur in Ahmedabad’s walled area. No strangers venture here and all newcomers are looked at with suspicion.

In such an atmosphere, it doesn’t take much for a crowd to materialize and even a small incident can ignite passions and convert the crowd into a mob.

For instance, in Ramol on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, where there people were recently killed, the violence started with mattresses being burnt by one community on one side of what is now called the border.

Barricades have now been set up across the city to demarcate the Hindu and Muslim areas in colonies where both communities have lived side by side for years.

The border signifies the deep divisions in this city and rules of engagement are very clear. There is constant provocation from both sides, but the boundary is considered sacrosanct.

In Juhapura, an area with a large Muslim population, a permanent fence has been put up to signify the border.

“We are very worried. The border is nearby. They call it the Pakistan border and the government doesn’t do anything,” said a local.

The violence often starts with stones or Molotov cocktails being thrown across the dividing line. Unlike the first phase of rioting, which was mainly one-sided, both communities are involved in this latest cycle of violence.

277 people were killed in Ahmedabad city in the first two days of large-scale rioting on February 28 and March 1.

Since March 5, although large-scale rioting has subsided, 63 people have been killed. Twenty six of them have been killed in the last four days alone.

“This happens because of rumours, because of mistrust. People come out and there is intolerance. It’s not possible to prevent all of them,” said P C Pandey, Police Commissioner.

With nearly half the city once again under night curfew almost two months after the violence began, Ahmedabad’s nightmare is still far from over.


By Nalin Mehta (With Sanjeev Singh) in www.ndtv.com - April 25, 2002
http://www.ndtv.com