July 10th 2002
It’s my third day in Ahmedabad. For the last three days, I have been visiting the riot affected camps and over this course, have met more than a thousand people. At times, I have become a human tree- children have climbed over me; seen young men and women cry silently and thousand other waiting for a messiah. For a messiah that never comes.
I have no right to talk about the pain these people have gone through- for one, I wasn’t there when they cried, when their houses were looted, their families tortured and raped and killed in front of their eyes. I wasn’t there while they watched their family being burnt alive, while they hid away from the goons.
Over the many days, I have read and re-read many accounts of what happened on February 27th, and after four months, I don’t know how I can be of any help, especially when their fears and pain are buried deep inside them.
It seems that Ahmedabad is divided into two cities- the city itself and the camps. While the city looks like it is back to normal, the camps, on the other hands give a variety of emotions, most important of them – hope. Though I was made aware of the torture many of the children had gone through, was I prepared to face them? One child kept looking at me shyly and smiled all the time. He had a sort of pus coming out of his eye. Noorjehan has informed me that he had seen his mother being killed in front of him and thus, had been declared ‘insane’.
Noorjehan herself was a victim of the riots. She was dragged outside her home and hit brutually on the head. She showed me an image of hers that appeared in a leading daily. There are similarities in the picture and the marks of her would are still visible. She now teaches the children at Daryakhana Gumbad camp.
Noorjehan and her brother Rahman are both helping the children learn while they live at the camp at Shah Alam. Rahman likes to draw and showed me drawings that he did on the walls. It had Tom & Jerry made on it. I’ve promised him some tips on drawing.
Shah Alam was the first time I went to a camp all by myself. Before that, I always had one person who chaperoned me while I settled in. One of such individuals was Gurpal, who became a guide and mentor….
(Excerpt from the journal from the time spent as a volunteer in Ahmedabad, soon after the riots in 2002)