Page last updated at 20:26 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2003 21:26 UK

Gujarat survivor rebuilds his life

By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent in Bombay

Qutubuddin Ansari
Mr Ansari's face became known to millions
A Muslim survivor of last year's carnage in the western Indian state of Gujarat has accepted an offer to rebuild his life in West Bengal state.

Qutubuddin Ansari became a symbol of the religious violence in Gujarat when a picture of him pleading for his life appeared across the India media.

He says that, although his home state is peaceful now, he fears for his safety because he is so well known.

More than 1,000 people died in the religious riots, most of them Muslim, after an attack on a train carrying Hindu activists.

Pleading for mercy

The photo of Qutubuddin Ansari, with terror writ large on his face and his hands folded pleading for mercy, symbolised the plight of the riot victims, and made a real impact in the rest of the country.

I would like to lead an anonymous life there
Qutubuddin Ansari
On Thursday, the man himself appeared before the media in Bombay to tell his story.

He says he pleaded for mercy after a mob descended on him.

"It was scary, death was staring me in the face," Mr Ansari said. But he says he bears no malice towards those who came to attack him.

Mr Ansari says he is moving to eastern India because it is now impossible for him to find a job in his home state.

His relatives believe he was so traumatised by his experiences that he is unable to face crowded places.

'Leave me alone'

Riots in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in February 2002
Mobs killed more than 1,000 people
The offer of a new life came from West Bengal's ruling Communist Party after Mr Ansari's plight was highlighted in a magazine run by Communalism Combat, an anti-communal private organisation.

The same group has taken up the case of another survivor, who is a crucial witness in a riot-related case dismissed recently by a Gujarat court.

Mr Ansari says he is taking his wife and children along to settle in Calcutta.

The West Bengal ruling party is giving him a cash incentive to start a business and a home for his family.

Mr Ansari pleaded with the media to be left alone in West Bengal.

He was grateful to the Communist Party for the offer, but said he would not like to be used for political purposes.

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