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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Gujarat's widows get on with life
Rioters in Gujarat
Rioters killed people and destroyed houses

In one of the resettlement colonies built for victims of recent religious rioting in India's western state of Gujarat, an entire lane is inhabited by 17 widows who lost their husbands in the violence.


My husband wanted to provide a good education for the children, we were so happy in our own world, but the maddened rioters ruined our lives

Ayesha, a widow
Most of the widows who are in their late 20s and early 30s are now living in one-room houses allocated to them on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in Vaku.

They are part of the 45 families from Naroda Patiya - scene of some of the worst rioting in Ahmedabad - who have been resettled in a new location.

The houses have been provided by a voluntary organisation called the Citizen's Relief Service.

Nearly 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed in communal violence sparked by a train attack in Gujarat in February, killing 58 Hindu activists.

Tragic tales

Farida lost her husband and a son to the riots but survived along with her 11-year old daughter Nafisa.

A widow with her child
Widows are picking up the threads of life again

"It is difficult to pacify Nafisa about her father's whereabouts, she asks me everyday in the evening, but I mollify her by saying he will return," said Farida with her eyes moistening over.

"I am guilty of telling her lies."

Every widow here has her own own story to tell.

A visibly shaken Ayesha said, "the government gave each of us around Rupees 2,500 as compensation; do they think it's enough for the damage and loss we suffered?"

"My husband wanted to provide a good education for the children; we were so happy in our own world, but the maddened rioters ruined our lives," Ayesha said.

New beginning

Tahira 13, was an eye-witness to her own father's killing during the riots.

"What was our fault?" she asks.

A bus on fire in Gujarat
Massive damage was caused to life and property

"We had nothing to do with what happened at Godhra, then why punish us?"

But most of the widows here want to make a fresh start in their lives.

Although there are no plans yet to provide them with jobs, the widows are hopeful voluntary organisations will help them to support themselves and their children.

Gujarat conflict in-depth

Key vote

Tense state

Background

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See also:

02 Feb 02 | South Asia
01 Mar 02 | South Asia
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
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