Tuesday, Aug 13, 2002
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By Manas Dasgupta
``It is the first time someone heard us so patiently,'' said 18-year-old Shahzahan Banu, who had been running from pillar to post to seek medical assistance for severe burn marks on her face she got during the riots. She, like 14-year old Zaved Sheikh, who has been orphaned in the riots, did not know what Dr. Kalam communicated in English to the Ahmedabad Collector, but are hoping that the opportunity they got to talk to the President directly would not in vain.
At Naroda-Patiya, where some 90 persons were burnt alive during the riots, and at the relief camps at Haj House and widows' home in Juhapura visited by the President, there were only brickbats for the Narendra Modi administration.
``I wish I had some good words for him,'' said Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, administrator of the Islami Relief Committee, pointing at Mr. Modi who was standing next to Dr. Kalam, ``but regrettably I have none nor any special feeling for him.'' Because the Government not only did not do anything to prevent the mass killings during the riots, but it was also lethargic in taking necessary steps for relief and rehabilitation in the post-riot days, he said.
Dr. Kalam, who began his visit by paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at his Sabarmati Ashram immediately after his arrival here this evening, later went to Naroda-Patiya before talking to the riot victims at Haj House and widows' camp, the two sites from where the media was barred by the State administration.
In the narrow lanes of Naroda-Patiya, the President, however, was taken only a few yards inside the locality. The local residents shouted that he should go and see for himself the ``Jalianwalabagh well'' in which the bodies of the burnt victims were allegedly thrown by the hooligans, but he was not allowed to go that far. Dr. Kalam apparently did not realise what the local residents were requesting him in Hindi and turned back to meet the selected few delegations waiting for him in a makeshift tent outside.
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