RAJEEV KHANNA | 22 SEPTEMBER, 2015
Vatva slum in Ahmedabad now referred to by the local police as “Vatva Pakistan”
AHMEDABAD: The move by Ahmedabad police to label a Muslim locality in the Vatva area of Ahmedabad as ‘Vatva Pakistan’ has surprisingly found little protest from the opposition parties.
The Rakhial police ‘legitimised’ the divide and rule polity of the Gujarat government by filing an FIR against four persons in a brawl, of which two — Bablu Azizbhai and Faizan Azizbhai — were described as residents of 'Vatva, Pakistan'. This follows reports from Nallaspara in Thane in Maharashtra were some Muslim families have reportedly been receiving electricity bills with their address listed as “Chota Pakistan.”
The police officials in Ahmedabad are not particularly remorseful after the news broke, merely claiming that this was the address given by the city control room.
Gujarat stands divided on communal lines and there are many such ‘mini Pakistans’ (localities where Muslims reside) that taxi drivers or local residents point out to the visitors. This reporter witnessed several such day to day finger pointing, that seems petty when written about, but creates an atmosphere of discord and disunity.
As early as February 2003, when this reporter who had moved to Ahmedabad decided to visit a widows home in an area called Juhapura, one of the biggest Muslim ghettos in the world, the auto driver stopped at the edge of the ghetto. When asked why he was not going till the address that was inside the locality he said, “ This is the BORDER of Juhapura (as if I was about to cross the LoC) and I will not go inside the locality. You can cross the road and then hire an auto driven by a Muslim and reach your destination.’’
In the summer of 2004, during the infamous India-Pakistan cricket match, India mauled the visitors largely because of the sterling performance by ace batsman Virender Sehwag. It was an occasion of cheer for cricket fans but a statement that came as a shock was from an educated Hindu youth who claimed to work for a newspaper. He said,’’ You know Sehwag is a Hanuman bhakt (worshipper) and since the match was held on Tuesday which is Hanuman’s day, Hanuman himself descended to help India win over the enemy!!!’’
It so happened that India lost to Sri Lanka, the following Sunday and this reporter could not help but quipping to the same fellow,’’ What happened this time ? Did Ravana descend to defeat the Indians ?’’
Conversation, seemingly commonplace, carries with it levels of stereotyping and ignorance. After an official assignment this reporter decided to visit old Ahmedabad to get some dates. The immediate reaction from a colleague was, ‘’Do you also eat dates ? I thought only Muslims eat that fruit,’’ he asked.
The city of Ahmedabad is full of sociological ironies. Otherwise who can explain the presence of a Jordan Road that divides the Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods in one of the most communally sensitive localities of Dariapur.
Significantly, just recently one got a call from a veteran journalist of the city who sounded very disturbed. He said, “ I suggested to a staff photographer of a prominent English national daily here that he must visit Kashmir for photography. I was shocked by this photographer’s reply when he said that he would never visit a place where he would have to contribute to a local economy of Muslims in terms of his boarding, lodging and travel.”
Clearly the communal divide in Gujarat is now cast in cement and stone.