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Injustice all over again: Naroda Patiya riot victims on BJP giving ticket to convict’s daughter

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By: Anand Singh
Updated: November 25, 2022 3:34
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The victims of 2002 Gujarat riots in Naroda Patiya have wholeheartedly rejected the candidature of daughter of riot convict Payal Kukrani. 30-year-old  anaesthetist Payal Kukarni has been given ticket from Naroda Patiya, where close to 100 people were killed in the riots. Kukrani’s father  Manoj Kukrani was one of the 32 who were convicted in the case.

The team of The New Indian visited the small locality of Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad on Thursday and met the victim families.

Salim, who drives his auto rickshaw and an eyewitness in the riots case does not mince words while he hits out at the BJP. “We cannot forget the day of the riots as several people including small children were killed here. And we have not got proper justice as several of the accused people, who were found guilty have been coming out of the prisons on parole or bail in routine manner,” he said.

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Manoj Kukrani is currently out on bail and has moved the Supreme Court against his conviction in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case. He was sentenced to life in 2012. He had challenged his conviction in the Gujarat High Court. The HC upheld the sentence in 2018, but not before granting him bail on several occasions. He then approached the Supreme Court, where his appeal is pending.

Naroda Patiya, like much of Gujarat, has remained a BJP strong turf, and the saffron party has chosen Payal over incumbent MLA Wani Balram Khubchando for a constituency dominated by Sindhi voters.

Payal, aged 30, is one of the youngest candidates that BJP has fielded in 2022 assembly elections. She has studied medicine in Russia.

When asked, BJP fielding Payal from Naroda Patiya assembly seat, Salim rued, “Yes, they will give tickets to such people as they are portrayed as revolutionaries in the BJP. The BJP government got its identity from the same. BJP believes them (riot accused) as revolutionaries and as they cannot give them tickets directly so they have fielded their family members.”

Salim also said that the votes of Naroda Patiya are not recognized by the BJP and no one from the ruling party comes there to check on them after elections. “Our votes don’t matter to them. The vote of Kukrani and Sindhi community is maximum in Naroda Patiya and thus they win easily from here,” he said.

“We had belief in our judiciary and thus we fought for justice in a legal way. Whatever verdict the court gave we accepted it with all humility but today we feel that in the name of justice we were cheated,” he said.

To a question about Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also entering in the election fray in the state, he said, “We people of Naroda Patiya have no expectation from anyone. We want a government that doesn’t support criminals and does not garland the people accused of heinous crimes.”

When asked if the Congress, one of the main opposition parties in the state, helped them, Salim slamming the grand old party said, “No, not even Congress did anything for us but they only enjoyed the trauma with which we have to go through,” he said.

“After the BJP-led NDA government went out of power from the centre in 2004, the Congress was in power for 10 years and they did nothing.”

“If they would have wanted or have been serious, they would have ensured justice to us and would have put the accused behind the bars. Even names of several BJP leaders came up in the probe and they would have taken stringent action but they only kept watching,” Salim added.

Sharing similar views, Zulekha Chaudhary, who also witnessed the 2002 riots and took refuge in different areas said, “We had to leave everything  to save ourselves. We hid for several hours without food and water. Then some policemen came and saved us after taking us to different localities,” she recalled.

“When they (police) were taking us to different localities we saw the dead bodies at all places, some were killed with sword wounds, while some were burnt to death. Many could not be identified and all tried to escape from Naroda,” she said.

She further said that they faced atrocities but they could not understand why such a thing happened to them.

When asked what expectation she has from the new government after the assembly elections, Zulekha said, “Since 2002 there have been no riots and we want all of us to stay together. Whoever comes to power they should allow all of us to live peacefully.

“We don’t have any enmity with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. We just want the government, whosoever it is, must treat everyone equally,” she said.

Fatimaben, who also resides in a small house in the narrow streets of Naroda Patiya said, “18 of my relatives were killed — eight people from my sister’s family, six from my uncle’s house and five from my in-laws’ home — in 2002 riots.

Stating that she does not know what kind of politics it is to field the riot accused’s daughter in the election by the ruling BJP.

“This is wrong to field the daughter of a riot accused from the Naroda seat. So many people died here and many were jailed as we gave statements as eyewitnesses,” she said, adding that several kids became orphan, several women were widowed when thenriots broke out here.

She also recalled how a Hindu family, who they knew, had given them shelter on February 28, 2002. “One Hindu family helped us and gave us refuge to hide. But after they faced immense opposition from his community they asked us to leave. Our children, women and all of us were without food, water,” she said in a choked voice with tears in her eyes.

“We saw our people being killed. We cannot do anything and even the police remained mute spectators,” she alleged.

Meanwhile, another resident Nareshsinh Pawar, who drives an auto rickshaw shares different sentiments than the families of the victims.

Pawar said, “It has been 20 years since the Naroda Patiya incident and now there is no such incident after that. And people of all communities live here peacefully.”

When asked which party he feels will form government in the state, Pawar said that there is no denying that BJP will come to power and there is no chance for AAP here.

“Before Payal Kukrani some other person was MLA from here from the BJP. And whosoever comes from this seat on the BJP ticket will win,” he said.

When pressed further about Manoj Kukrani’s involvement in the case, he said, “He has been given punishment by the court. But his daughter has not done anything.”

Explaining further Pawar said, “If I have committed any crime then punish me, but why punish my family who have no involvement”.

Another local from the area, Srinivas, who runs a jewellery shop hailed then Chief Minister Narendra Modi for development in Gujarat and said, “Since Modiji came to power in the state, he handled all the issues and there has been no riots in Gujarat after 2002.”

Modi became Chief Minister in 2001.

He said that a lot of development has been done in the last 20 years in the state.

When asked if he feels that AAP or Congress will dent the chances of the BJP in the state, he said, “AAP and Congress have less chances from here.”

Even he backed Payal Kukrani, the BJP candidate from the assembly seat and said, “For father’s act, why does she need to be punished? Now one must focus on the future and should watch how she works for the development of the area.”

He also stressed that in the last 20 years, a lot of development has taken place in the state and also in Ahmedabad as many new flyovers have been built.

The election for 182 member Gujarat assembly is scheduled on December 1 and December 5.

Voting in Naroda Patiya assembly seat will take place on December 5 in the second phase. And counting of votes will take place on December 8.

The BJP is looking for a consecutive seventh term in the state, where it has been in power since 1995. The Congress has given the seat to its alliance partner NCP’s candidate Nakul Tomar from Naroday Patya, while the AAP has fielded Omprakash Tiwari from the seat.

The grand old party is trying to wrest the power from the BJP and the latest entrant into poll fray the AAP is also campaigning aggressively in the state following the electoral success in Punjab assembly polls earlier this year.

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