His Hindu students were his first concern

Image are for representation purpose only

Nazir Khan Pathan, School Teacher, Ahmedabad

Nazir Khan Rahim Khan Pathan is a primary school teacher who lived at Jawahar Nagar, Naroda Patiya, a Muslim locality surrounded by Hindu houses on all sides. Nazir Khan took tuition classes at home and had many Hindu students coming to his place for coaching. Since the SSC exams were approaching, his coaching class students were studying at his house on the morning of February 28. At around 10 or 11 a.m., as the mob started collecting outside Naroda Patiya, Nazirbhai realised that things were beginning to look serious.

His first concern was for the safety of the Hindu children under his care because he feared that they would be mistaken for Muslim children and attacked. So he took them to a lane near the SRP headquarters and told them to go back to their own homes. However, one girl, Bharati was very scared and refused to leave the house, fearing that she would be killed. At first, he assured her that she was welcome to stay in his house where she would be looked after as his own but as things got worse, he decided that he should help her escape. He noticed one of his students, Raju, in the mob. Since Raju recognised Bharati, Nazirbhai handed her over to him and thus managed to ensure that all the Hindu children got out safely and in time.

There are many such stories, big and small, of Hindus saving Muslims and Muslims saving Hindus at Naroda Patiya, which serve to relieve the grimness of that day.

The SRP headquarters abut Naroda Patiya. Towards evening, when the mob turned murderous, SRP personnel were posted at the boundary of the compound with strict instructions not to let anyone enter or leave it. However, residents of Naroda Patiya ran to the SRP compound for safety and the people posted there found themselves unable to turn the victims away though through the day they had turned away wailing victims .

"I have been working there for about 15 years and know all of them well," says Chhotalal Maganlal Vora. Soon about 1,000 people, Hindus and Muslims, collected inside the SRP compound. Much later, the SRP boss, Chavan sahab heard about the refugees in the compound and around midnight, he sent a vehicle to transport the victims to the Shah Alam camp. Dalabhai K. Patel was the truck driver and Faiyyaz Khan Pathan its conductor.

But the mob still lay in wait for the Muslims and as soon as the truck left the compound, it was surrounded by about 10,000 people determined to block their escape route to safety. They were armed with petrol, diesel and soda bottles and were preparing to set the truck on fire when Dalabhai and Faiyyaz did some quick thinking. They asked the mob to let them park the truck to a side after which they were free to do as they wished.

When the mob parted to allow them space to park the truck, Dalabhai went into reverse and sped right back to the safety of the SRP compound. He finally managed to drop the Muslims at Shah Alam camp at about 3.30 a.m. Dalabhai Patel and Faiyyaz Khan managed to save over 100 lives. Even today, residents of Naroda Patiya who were sheltered and finally saved by the SRP personnel that night thank their benefactors.

There are many such stories, big and small, of Hindus saving Muslims and Muslims saving Hindus at Naroda Patiya, which serve to relieve the grimness of that day. However, not all ended in rescue and happiness. Fatimabibi tells one such story, which ended in tragedy. As the riots started on the morning of February 28, she and other residents ran to Gangotri and Gopinath chali for help. Though they were sure they would get help from some of the women they knew, on that dreadful day, when suspicion and hatred governed all emotions, there was no help to be had. The fleeing Muslims were unable to find any acquaintances at Gangotri and Gopinath and the men they met refused to help.

However, one widow — Fatimabibi does not know her name — took pity on them and took them into her room. She sheltered 20-30 people in her small room and gave them food and water. She did not want them to go out to the toilet and expose themselves to the rest of the chali so she cleared a drain in the kitchen that they could use to relieve themselves. She hid them there for two or three hours. However, after some time, her brother called out to her. He had heard about the trouble in her area and wanted to come and take her away. She told him that she had people at her place and could not leave them and go.

Her neighbours overheard their conversation, kicked up a ruckus and forced her to open her doors and ask the Muslims to leave. As the Muslims ran out, they were attacked by the mob, and many of the people who had sought shelter at her house died. At Naroda, the day unfolded in tragedy upon tragedy

One thing, however, stands out. Naroda Patiya has about 123 Hindu houses and over 500 Muslim houses. Yet no Hindu was hurt by his Muslim neighbours, even as Muslims were attacked by Hindu mobs. No Hindu houses were damaged in retaliation for what Hindu mobs had inflicted on the Muslim residents. As a result, the Hindus are back at Naroda and do not feel insecure living in a Muslim majority area.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2004 Year 10   No. 98, Cover Story 5



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