Risking his life to rescue others

Fariduddin Khan, Congreessman, Odh, Anand

Fariduddin Khan is a resident of Sureli village in Umreth taluka of Anand district. He is also a member of the Umreth taluka Panchayat. About 50 per cent of Sureli’s residents are Hindu and the other 50 per cent are Muslim. There was no communal problem in Sureli throughout the troubled period in 2002 and it became the centre of a major relief camp in the area.

When trouble started brewing in the village of Odh, seven km away, a few Muslims fled to Umreth. There, they told the district Congress president of the Minorities Cell, Fariduddin Khan about the terrible conditions in Odh. At about 7 a.m. on March 2, 2002, Faridbhai received an emergency call from Odh. The Hindu population of the village had turned against their Muslim neighbours and there was no chance of survival. Dhiru Khan Rehmu Khan, a resident of Odh, says that Faridbhai was their last hope but they were sure that he would help them. Faridbhai called an emergency meeting of the Muslims of Sureli to decide how the Muslims in Odh could be saved. However, no one volunteered for the rescue mission. Faridbhai decided to take the lead and along with a friend, Bismillah Khan Akbar Khan, left for Odh with two tempos. He was on good terms with the DySP of the area and asked him for police protection, which was provided.

Faridbhai managed to reach Odh within an hour of receiving the call for help. There, he realised that the entire Muslim neighbourhood was burning. The chowk in front of the dargah was the only area still untouched, mainly because all the Muslims had gathered there and the Hindus found it difficult to approach. He parked his tempos in the chowk and piled in as many Muslims as he could. Thus, he was able to take about 600 Muslims out of the village. When the Hindus realised that Muslims were being rescued in the tempo they threw stones at it and even chased it over a distance. But Faridbhai was able to outmanoeuvre them and take these Muslims safely to Sureli. However, there was still a sizeable number of Muslims trapped in Odh. He had planned on making another rescue trip to Odh but the Hindus, realising that the Muslims could be rescued by road, blocked it with tree trunks and huge stones, making a second rescue operation impossible. And, in one of the worst instances of violence in Gujarat in 2002, 27 Muslims were burnt alive in Odh the next day.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2004 Year 10   No. 98, Cover Story 15




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