13 minutes agoAuthor: Sandhya Dwivedi
11 sentenced to life in prison for the Bilkis Bano racketeering case have been released after 18 years in prison. But that release has been challenged in court. The Supreme Court is in session. And this also the Constitutional, that is to say, the Constitutional. The 2-day hearing has also been held.
In this case there are only two living characters, one Bilkis himself and the other Saddam, a boy of only 7 years at the time of the incident. Saddam is the only person who was the only eyewitness to the entire incident apart from Bilkis in the Bilkis Bano case. You must have read and heard the story of Bilkis. Read Saddam’s story today…
“When I regained consciousness, Ammi had sword wounds on her chest. She didn’t have a single cloth on her body. I cried loudly, wake up mom, get up mom. But she didn’t get up. She was dead,” says Saddam Sheikh with trembling voice. Now Saddam is 27 years old, but as he tells this, only a scared 6-7 year old boy can be seen, in front of which is the body of his mother.
This is a childhood photo of Saddam. It was at this age that he had seen the cruelty of the mutineers. Saddam is Bilkis’ relative and the only eyewitness to the incident.
On 27 February 2002, two coaches of the Sabarmati Express coming from Ayodhya to Gujarat were set on fire. 59 pilgrims died in this. Among the dead were 9 men, 25 children and 25 women. Within hours, reports of violence emanating from many parts of Gujarat started pouring in. By nightfall, this violence reached a settlement in Randhikpur village of Dahod, about 50 km from Godhra.
On the day the train was burnt at Godhra, in the evening a mob with guns reached the village of Randhikpur. The townspeople got in front, so the rioters had to go back. -Illustration: Gautam Chakraborty
When the old uncle stopped the rioters, he hit them with an iron pipe.
Saying this, Saddam Sheikh clutches his 4-year-old son a little closer to his chest. Then we start reciting: “It was the afternoon of February 27, 2002, it was dark and I was playing with my friends. Suddenly people arrived in 4-5 big vehicles. They were screaming, killing, burning. But the young men, the women , the elders of the settlement stood like a wall. He had to go back.
The next day, the morning of February 28, Thursday morning, for fear of the attack, we left the town in groups. Bilkis was also on the team that my mother and I were on. We didn’t even take any luggage with us in a hurry.
The people of the settlement began to feel that it is now not safe for them to live in the village. For this reason, on the morning of February 28, they left the town in different groups. One such group was Saddam and Bilquis. -Illustration: Gautam Chakraborty
We had walked about 40 kilometers through the forests of Kesar Bagh for 3 days. It was a Sunday, March 3, 2002, when we saw a person approaching us. In his hands were swords, scythe, ax and iron pipes. He came and started killing. There was an old uncle, he folded his hands to let us go. Everyone started begging, but they hit the pipe on the uncle’s head. They fell there.
Shamim’s daughter was born a day ago, he threw her in the ditch
Saddam pauses as he narrates this story over and over, then, as he manages, begins to narrate more: “The rioters started killing everyone. There was a stampede. My mother held my hand and started running to the other side. Then someone rescued me from my mother and threw me into a well. We also had Shamim with us who had given birth to a baby girl a day before. They threw the Shamim’s boy in the ditch in front of me. put a stone on me. After that I fainted.
On March 3, a mob of rioters surrounded Bilkis’ group. With weapons in hand, this mob began to strike. Women gang-raped. He killed the children. Saddam was also attacked, but survived. -Illustration: Gautam Chakraborty
When I regained consciousness, a voice rose in my ears. water water He was my uncle’s son. A little younger than me Maybe 5 years. I went to the river to get him water. There was a river right next to where the accident took place. When I brought water, he was already dead.
Ammi’s body was on the ground, there were no clothes on her body.
Saddam’s voice dried up again, I turned off the camera. He comforted them and after some time spoke again. He started talking, then I went to Ammi. The mother was lying on the floor. I shook them. I said – wake up Ammi – wake up Ammi, but she didn’t get up. He had not a single cloth on his body. Everyone was dead there.
When we left the village, Bilkis was also with us, but after regaining consciousness, I did not see her. Dead bodies were scattered everywhere. I sat there. After a while some townspeople came, then the police came and took me away. Ammi was lying there. I left them, I had to leave.
6 women including Bilkis, Ammi gang-raped
Saddam says: 6 women were gang-raped at that place, besides Bilkis, Meri Ammi Amina, there were also 4 other women. All but Bilkis and I were killed. I was treated at Dahod camp. Then I started living in the camp with my brothers. My brother had left Randhikpur in a different group so he survived.
The police left Saddam at the Dahod relief camp. The family was finished, so Saddam stayed in the camp with the brothers. From there his maternal uncle Mukhtar took him with him. -Illustration: Gautam Chakraborty
One day Uncle Mukhtar came there. He saw me sitting outside in the winter. She wore less clothes. From there they took me with them. I started living with them. Mukhtar Mohammad, a resident of Ahmedabad, remained with him at every step of the battle of Bilkis. Bilkis stayed at Mukhtar’s maternal uncle’s house for several months. He took me with him too.
Like Bilquis, Saddam also lost everything, no one took care of him
Bilquis fought a long battle. He lost his two sons in the riots. One was in the stomach, then the other girl was three and a half years old. Abbu, Ammi, two sisters, two brothers. Other family members were also victims of the accident. Saddam’s mother, Amina, was Bilkis’ sister in the relationship.
The government announced a house, a job and 50 lakhs to Bilkis. Haven’t found house and job yet, but money has been received. Other victims of the Godhra riots received compensation, but nothing for Saddam. It appeared, but nothing happened.
This is Mukhtar Mohammad. Mukhtar, a resident of Ahmedabad, was helpful to Bilkis from the beginning. He also supported Saddam. Saddam still does business with them.
Mukhtar Mohammad says: ‘Saddam also lost his mother in the riots. When Saddam’s brothers didn’t support him, I brought him along. When Saddam became a witness in the Bilkis case, seeing the danger looming over him, I sent him to my mother in Ahmedabad. He tried hard to teach her. But Saddam was in shock.
Saddam is married and has a 4-year-old son. Saddam allowed us to take his own photo, but prevented us from taking the woman’s photo.
Even after many efforts, I could not educate this child. This was not his state of mind. I was silent and stunned. He had seen such a terrible scene, seeing that the hearts of the elders must be shaken, then he was a little boy of 6-7 years old.
Saddam also circled the court, fearing a deadly attack but persevering. Perhaps no one cared about that little boy, who had seen the body of his mother Amina lying on the ground.
There is no sign except Ammi’s memory, not even a photo.
Saddam with sad eyes says: “I left the village with my mother. There was fear of attack, we left empty-handed. I have no trace of my mother. Not a photo. When Mukhtar saw that no one ‘was in charge of Saddam, he also engaged him to work with him. Saddam is now doing shoe business along with Mukhtar.
Saddam is married. He has a 4-year-old boy. “In the last three years we have changed three houses,” says his wife. If he had his own house, he could have lived permanently. It is not possible to return to the village. The atmosphere is not good and there is always a threat to Saddam. Do you know why the government or other people, no one has dealt with Saddam so far?
The wife falls silent, only then does Saddam say, “Don’t take her (the wife’s) picture, and her name should not appear anywhere.” If possible, don’t mention them in the story. After that there was silence in the room for a long time.
(Read in the sequel to this series, what happened to Bilkis that day. Reports from the jungle floor where 6 women were gang-raped and 13 people were killed. The police and doctors refused to even to accept a gang rape.) Diya. Bhaskar also went to the house of the culprits. What happened there, read that in the third episode…)