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Godhra Muslims want to leave past behind

Godhra Muslims want to leave past behind

Author: Rathin Das
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 21, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/171047/Godhra-Muslims-want-to-leave-past-behind.html

Despite the best efforts of political players in the region, the residents of Godhra do not want the ghost of communal conflict to be invoked repeatedly, especially during elections. All they want to discuss is the development of the region. Even the 90-odd families of those, accused of setting the Sabarmati Express afire in February 2002, want to leave behind the past and move ahead.

For these families, the pre-dawn exercise of packing lunch for their dear ones, languishing in Ahmedabad's Sabarmati jail, is a daily routine.

They are especially reminded of the 'Godhra issue' every morning as they send off the meals on the three-hour journey and also when the empty lunch boxes come back, only to be sent again next morning.

In this epicentre of all the trouble that brought infamy to Gujarat's reputation as a State of peace loving people, the Godhra issue is not an electoral plank. Development - or rather lack of it - is.

That may be the reason why none of the political parties in the fray is talking about the incident. All that the survivors of the post-Godhra riots in the district want is compensation and rehabilitation.

In the seven years since the 2002 train inferno, the estimated two-lakh strong Muslims, mostly backward Ghanchis, among the 14-lakh strong electorate, have recovered from the ignominy of being viewed as suspects and learnt to move on in life.

Thus, no one here talks about the "Muslim factor", though the community has been taken for granted by the Congress, which has fielded Union Textiles Minister Shankersinh Vaghela in the newly created Panchmahal Lok Sabha constituency after the delimitation exercise.

The 'Godhra issue' being irrelevant Godhra Muslims want to leave past behind, move ahead caste cards. The BJP has nominated former Minister Prabhatsinh Chauhan, who not only lost the 2007 Assembly election by 14,000 votes but also carries the taint of being involved in the Rs 260-crore scam in the Panchmahal District Cooperative Bank where he was the vice-chairman. BJP's sitting MP Bhupendra Solanki has been dropped this time following Chief Minister Narendra Modi's "no repeat" theory adopted for candidates, with LK Advani being the exception.

Despite Vaghela and Chauhan being Kshatriyas, the dominant caste in the constituency, both are talking about development, though through their own perspectives.

BJP's Prabhatsinh Chauhan is basking in the glory of the development brought about by Chief Minister Narendra Modi while Vaghela rubbishes all such claims.

Vaghela told The Pioneer on Saturday that he was getting complaints of drinking water shortages and power scarcity.

Villagers in this constituency told this correspondent about compulsions of only rain-fed agriculture in the absence of irrigation in the area, but their conversations also indicate an undercurrent of Hindutva sweeping through what was known as Vaghela's backyard.

Of the seven Assembly segments, the Congress had won as many as four in the 2007 election. But the Hindutva wave may drown Vaghela.

"Fifty-fifty" is the term people like Dilip Makwana of Balasinor uses when one asks about the chances of the two contenders.

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