An orgy of blood /A dance for justice – Part two:

An orgy of blood /A dance for justice – Part two:

An orgy of blood /A dance for justice – Part two: 150 150 ComfortAid International

Firoz Gulzar Mohammed Pathan (FGMP):

The train from Surat to Ahmedabad next morning is another comfortable ride, on time departure and arrival. Chotubhai Dosani, my host, picks me up and we lunch in style at his home and I have the afternoon free to relax and catch up with piling emails that were almost inaccessible in Surat due to a lousy connection at Ginger Hotel.

Chotubhai is a generous man; he provides me with a chauffeur driven air-conditioned car the next day, a life saver for me, for it is 108F or 42C, enough to sear my behind on the back seat of any rickshaw. I already have an appointment to meet FGMP; he must think of me a lunatic, for I have called him thrice to confirm already. He sounds very cautious, understandably, but after a little persuasion and reassurance, he let me come meet him. We get to FGMP’s garage after a couple of false stops, for its located in somewhat remote part of town. I notice an armed policeman with an enormous beer belly lounging on a charpai just outside the garage; the riffle looks as ancient as him, I wonder about him.

FGMP is a slight man, a gaunt and simple man. He settles me inside his one room garage; I immediately begin sweating for it is already oppressively hot, at only10AM. We chit-chat a little, size each other up. FGMP and only surviving brother co-own a motorbike garage and business is good. His brother Irfaan is the mechanic and he takes care of administration and a crane rental business just recently begun. I gently lead talk to the fateful day; he turns serious and his eyes look everywhere but me. Then, making sure we are out of earshot of the guard outside, he begins his story:

We were a happy family, my mom and pa, a sister and three brothers lived in a modest 2 bedroom home at Gulbaag Society. I was a tailor by profession then but did not go to work that day because of the strike called by Hindu groups in protest against the Godhra incident. We were alert but not overly concerned; we had weathered such events before. It was only when my brother Irfaan came running with news of stone pelting that we realized there was trouble. The stoning subsided after a little while but began again and intensified as they started ramming into our house. It was when the mob outside began hurling acid that I realized the enormity of our danger.

I went out of the house to join others that were defending the society by returning fire using the stones that had come to hurt us; mum and sister protesting, pleading for me not to leave them. After some time, Irfaan was hit on the chest by a sword but he had deflected the force of the blow so it was not fatal, but he was unconscious. As I and others tried to revive him, all hell broke loose and we were scattered. I abandoned Irfaan and ran towards my house, told mum and sis to lock doors and stay inside; I saw mum has packed all our jewelry in a bag. I slammed the doors shut, shouted at mum to lock it and ran; about ten men, murderous rage on their faces were coming at me; one flung a sword at me but missed.

I ran up a nearby flight of stairs to the roof of the building and stayed there, praying the mob would leave my house alone, prayed my parents and siblings would be okay. I wanted to go down but the entire front, back and sides of the society was filled by a rampaging mob of crowds with knives, swords and burning wood sticks. The air was full of thick smoke from burning homes and I could smell the terrible stench of human flesh burning. Then, there was a shift of wind and the smoke cleared a bit; I glimpsed mum in the courtyard, surrounded, the jewelry scattered on the ground, empty bag discarded nearby, the men hitting her…molesting her.

We are interrupted by two motor bikes that come in for repairs; FGMP asks them to return later, when Irfaan is at work, then waits for them to be out of hearing range and resumes.

I waited there on the roof, numb and defeated, until about 7PM when there was quiet; only embers form dying fires and an occasional moan from an injured or dying person remained. I then escaped through railway lines running behind the Society. The railway police would not let me stay at the station so I fled to our mosque and stayed with those in similar predicament for two days before I was allowed to return to Gulbaag Society. It was further two days before a truck full of ice and bodies of my family members was brought to the Society by the police; I identified the remains. We took them to the graveyard, bathed, shrouded and buried whatever remained of them.

I ask about the guard outside; he is State provided, for there are threats from those arrested and now out on bail; threats to keep quiet, to withdraw the cases. But the guard seems useless, I say and laugh, he won’t be able sit up, let alone protect you, I joke. FGMP shrugs his shoulders, the joke either lost on him or he cares not.

What can one do after hearing firsthand accounts of such horror? I am numb with pity and sorrow for this young man in front of me. I console him and speak few words of kindness and share in his pain. Things are looking up for FGMP and Irfaan, economically at least. From the INR200k (about USD4,500) granted by Gujarat government as compensation, they bought this land, built the garage and have spare land they could rent out. Both are married now and have their own families. I bid farewell, promise to keep in touch and leave; there is no sign of the guard outside.

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