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With no relief, they turn to religious places for shelter

With no relief, they turn to religious places for shelter

Author: Palak Nandi
Publication: www.expressindia.com
Date: May 9, 2002
URL: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=16851

These are the 1,000-odd riot victims for whom relief is an eyewash. While some have been driven away from their houses, others had no choice but to leave their houses badly damaged in the riots.

Relief seems to be a far-fetched idea because since the past 15 days, they have been spending their days either on the streets or in a half-constructed building.

About 550-odd residents of the Prem Darwaja Vagheri Vas, Dariyapur, had no choice but to leave behind their belongings and take shelter in a near-by temple, following the violence of March 21. These Dalit families claim that they had been attacked by the people belonging to the minority community, who damaged their houses, property and drove them out of the area.

''We had no choice but to take shelter at this temple. However, the temple cannot accommodate all of us hence, we are compelled to live in this half-constructed building,'' says Gautamiben Dhirabhai, a resident of the Vagheri Vas.

This half-constructed building is right opposite the temple, in the same premises and though it does not have a single fully-built room, it is the 'house' for more than 400 people, while the remaining sleep in the temple.

The situation is no different at a similar relief camp in Kalupur. The Bahuchar-Mata-nu-Madir, located at Bhanderi-ni-Pol at Kalupur, is currently accommodating about 518 riot-affected victims. They are the residents of areas located between Kalupur Darwaja and Kalupur Tower and which witnessed violence on March 21.

While a few of these people sleep at their neighbour's house, some sleep in the temple while the rest, mainly the men, sleep in the lanes, just outside the temple. The temple area is called as 'border area' by the local residents, as across the temple is the locality of the Muslims. ''There is a continuous flow of stones, petrol bombs and even bullets at times, from across the border. All of us avoid even going close to the border,'' says Nirmalaben Dave, whose house has been damaged during the riots.

The inmates of both the camps have demanded for a building, but as yet none of them have been allotted one. ''We have been demanding for the Kalpur Municipal school number 14 and 19, for a long time now, but we have not been allotted the school building. Because of the space shortage, these people have no choice but to eat and sleep in the lanes,'' says Paresh Thakkar, organiser of the camp, who lives nearby.

For years, both Hindus and Muslims lived together in the area. Now the mutual trust and faith between the two communities has been replaced by fear, panic and hatred.

''For more than 60 years, we lived peacefully and there was never any problem. However, on March 21, a few people of my locality came to me and told me that I should leave my house for good and if I return, they will not be responsible for the consequences,'' says Badamiben Prajapari, who lives alone with her son.

''It is not safe for these people to live here as one does not know when the stone-pelting and violence will begin. Already, the third floor of my building has been damaged due to the petrol bombs,'' says Bhagyovadan Khatri, trustee of the temple. But the refugees are apprehensive about returning to their houses.

''About five of us were injured in a private firing on March 21. All of us now are very careful and avoid going to their area, except in a group'', says Hitendra Shah, who was injured in the incident.

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