Sunday, June 4, 2006 (New Delhi):
The report, which is scheduled to be submitted in October, says that most cities and towns in the state are uncompromisingly divided into Muslim and Hindu quarters.
Sometimes they even have physical barricades running between them. And Muslims in the state continue to face economic and social discrimination and alienation.
"A Hindu can go anywhere. Muslims, however, can only to a few areas to buy things in the locality of Paldi. Also, if a Hindu is purchasing and a Muslim is purchasing, there is a difference of Rs 3000 to 4000 per square yard," said Naved Siddiqui, a local builder.
"Earlier, my shop used to be full of clothes, but after the riots, the Hindus stopped coming to my shop to get their clothes stitched. We only had Hindu customers, as Muslims never get clothes made in a shop," said Yunus, a local tailor.
The premise of the Prime Minister's High Level Committee's report is that the Muslim community in Gujarat has never quite recovered from the 2002 riots.
Assessing the educational, social and economic status of Muslims in the country, the committee said that economic apartheid and ghettoisation are severe problems in Gujarat.
"Ever since the 2002 riots, the polarisation of communities in Gujarat has acquired a physical dimension. There have been campaigns urging a boycott of Muslim shops, establishments and labour by Hindus.
"There have been campaigns one should boycott Muslim shops and establishments and that Muslim labour should not be hired by Hindus," said Prof T K Oommen, Member, Prime Minister's High Level Committee on Muslims.
He is also associated with Gujarat Harmony project and has been visiting Gujarat for the last two years. He feels that there is a deep sense of insecurity among Muslims in the state.
"They are not simply discriminated against in the market situation, their symbols attacked but their very life and limb is in danger. I remember one Muslim woman telling me that she is not very sure whether her 22-year-old son who has gone out for some work will be returning," he added.
Since the riots, the polarisation between the communities has acquired a physical dimension with clear demarcation in residential spaces.
"Ghettoism is totally complete and localities have been divided into Hindu and Muslim localities, which is very sad. This is not only the case in Ahmedabad but in all of Gujarat," said Dr Abusaleh Shariff, Member and Secretary of the Prime Minister's High Level Committee and Chief Economist at NCAER.
"For the Gujarati people, I am sorry to say that Gujarat is still at the risk of political people polarising Hindus and Muslims. I know of families who have left their places and moved to the older city," he added.
The panel headed by retired Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar visited Gujarat over three days last February.
Among the inputs it received there, which are likely to be included in the final report, are
- Numerous incidents of symbols associated with Muslims being desecrated or demolished
- Dismal representation in the public sector – a mere two to three per cent
- The dropout rate in schools, especially that of Muslim girls, has risen
- The community faces problems getting bank loans some areas are blacklisted
- Migrant Muslims are twice marginalized
No one from the Gujarat government was willing to comment on the committee's observations.
However, earlier this year, when the members visited Gujarat and met Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he insisted that his government did not discriminate between communities.
He also issued a press statement saying the committee agreed with his views that development programmes should not be viewed through a communal prism.
The committee, on the other hand, was quick to deny this and is now suggesting that the Muslim community in Gujarat has not been able to recover from the 2002 riots.
The Committee has also said that the state government has done little to end the sense of alienation faced by the Muslim community in Gujarat.