(Parveen, July 2002)
This is Parveen Banu. Parveen is eight years old. She lives at Char Tora Kabrastan. Within a stone's throw of her house are two (of many other) tombs:
This one reads "Kausar Ali Ansari. Martyr. February 28. Noor Nagar"
This is the tomb of Munabhai. Father of Parveen.
Munnabhai died in police firing on February 28.
"The police shot my father. I ran with others to Bakarsha ka Roza". Parveen reveals between sobs.
"Tola aya (the mob came)" reveal the other children.
(Abeed, July 2002)
'They also shot Guddu', Abeed, also 8y old, informs us. 'They started firing from over the compound wall at that corner' points Arshad Ali, 6y old. First they were shouting slogans. We were all scared. Then they broke down the wall and burnt some houses on that side. Our fathers and brothers went there to fight them, when the police came in and started firing at us. They shot Munabhai in front of us. We were all very scared. We started running out. The tola (mob) was very very big. Very big."
(Arshad Ali, July 2002)
'Who was in the tola?' 'Hindus' comes the prompt reply from Chand. Chand Mohammed is 3 yrs old.
(Chand, July 2002)
'And who are these Hindus?' S. Banu (whose father was killed), 12 y old explains who Hindus are. 'They are people who work for the police and do the dhamal (riots). They worship 'Ganpati.' Mauseena (10) and Mohammad Sharif (12)agree. The others chime in. 'Bajrang Dal' says one. Another says 'Shiv Sena'. A third say 'Jo tika lagata hai (one who wears a mark on his forehead).'
(Mauseena, July 2002)
(Mohammed Sharif, July 2002)
Anish Raiz, 12y old says when the the Bajrang Dal attacked them with bombs and bullets, there were calls from the mosque, 'Kurbani do - sacrifice yourselves'. So our people came out to protect us. Hasan, 13y old, who believes that Hindus are people who do 'pooja' and believe in 'bhagwan' said they were throwing stones and burning carts. That's when his brother went to fight them.
(Anish Raiz, July 2002)
(Hasan, July 2002)
These children were all living at Char Tora Kabrastan, 5 months after the riots started. Most of them have come from other localities. They have left their homes behind and with their homes they have left their old lives. Few months ago, there were several thousand petrified people crammed into the graveyard, without proper shelter, sanitation or food. Now few hundred are left behind. Many of them do not go to school any more. Some do not know if they will ever be able to return home. Of those that have left the graveyard and other relief camps, many have been unable to return home. We asked why.
Hasnain Ali(*), tells us why.
Hasnain Ali also lives at the Char Tora Kabrastan. But this isn't his home. He says he doesn't know where his family will go. Their home is no more. 'Was it badly damged?' we asked. He takes us home. Rather, to the place that was his home.
(*) name changed.