//Muslim families return to Ajanwa

Muslim families return to Ajanwa

Shikha Trivedi, NDTV,  Wednesday, March 1, 2006 (Ajanwa):

On March 5, 2002, in the Muslim quarters of Ajanwa in Godhra district, a sword-wielding mob hacked 11 women and children of the village to death.

They burnt their bodies and threw them in a dry well in the fields.

Four years later, few Muslim families have dared to return and live in Ajanwa.

This is despite a fast track court judgement last December, which sentenced 11 of the accused to life imprisonment, put two more in jail for 10 years and acquitted 18 others.

Increasing fear

Ironically, for many of the victims living in a rehabilitation site in Godhra, the judgment has only heightened the fear.

"After the accused were sentenced, it has become impossible for us to return to the village. We had started going there in the mornings to work in the fields and returning here in the evenings. But now, they are angry with us. We can’t go back even for a few hours. We are scared," said a local.

Abdul Munaf, an eyewitness to the massacre was one of those who refused to leave his home.

Four years after the incident, Abdul still cannot find anyone to repair his tractor, which was damaged by the mob nor can he complain to the panchayat that his hand pump went dry last summer.

This is because he has been boycotted economically and socially for identifying the accused, all of whom are from the village.

"All the old relationships have broken down. No one talks to each other or goes to the others’ houses like it used to be earlier. We live as total strangers," said Munaf.

The Muslims of Ajanwa fought for justice but ironically, winning it has made them even more vulnerable.

This miscarriage of justice can only be corrected if the local administration decides to act tough otherwise returning home will remain a distant dream for these people.