She was a key witness in the Naroda Patiya massacre trial. That is not the only way Shakeela’s life is embedded in history though. The lives of three generations of Shakeela’s family tells the story of modern Ahmedabad.
Hindi translation available below
Shakeela calls the guards only when needed, like when she needs to leave home to go to the market. How can she trust them? It is the police who were mute spectators when her mother Qudrat and brother Mahmood cried for help twelve years ago. The police did nothing to save them when they were doused in petrol and set ablaze while still alive. Her brother Shabbir, his wife Zubeida and their children Sameena and Asif were maimed in front of their eyes. Nadeem, her three-month-old nephew, the prettiest child born in their family till date, was thrown alive onto a mass pyre. Shabnam, her 14-year-old niece, was raped and then cut into pieces by the same people who had cut open the womb of her cousin, Kausar Bano Shaikh. The police repeatedly misdirected them to areas where the tolas, a colloquial term used for mobs, were waiting to kill.
In the early 1960s, Khurshid and several thousands of other workers migrated to Ahmedabad to work in the textile mills. It was here in 1861 that Ranchhodlal Chhotalal established the first textile mill in Ahmedabad and successfully established the ‘Made in India’ brand in the next three decades. In the early years of Independence, there were 75 textile mills here, which reduced to 40 in the 1960s. Workers claim this was the last time pay was revised for them before 2012. On September 25, 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Make in India’ campaign to invite corporations from across the globe to invest and manufacture in India, the number of the mills here had shrunk to 15.
The entrance to Naroda Patiya. Photo Neha Dixit
A year later, Qudrat Bibi packed her family of four children and mother-in-law to Naroda Patiya. There were no jobs but there was work as a very poorly paid daily wager. This is how, all members of the family except Khurshid, who was an incorrigible alcoholic by then, started working in the nearby mills. Shakeela and her three siblings worked in the packaging department earning Rs 10-12 per day while Qudrat and her mother-in-law worked at the loom and earned Rs 30 a day. Their collective monthly wages matched what Khurshid had earned. And this how the family lived for twenty years.
After the 2002 dhamaal, none of the Sindhi mill owners or the Hindu factory owners wanted to employ Muslims, but lots of Dalits in her neighborhood found work at the same places. In a neighborhood that once had a large population of Dalits and Muslims, today only 500 Dalits are left out of the roughly 4,600 people who live in the ghetto, according to a rough estimate by Nazir Khan Pathan, who runs the only school in the Patiya. In 2002, he says the population of the area was close to 15,000. Most of them have managed to afford houses in better, ‘developed’ areas. More Muslims are moving into the area for safety in an increasingly paranoid city.
The Muslims in this area have since found work as daily wagers in the factories for Rs 50-80 per day. The very skilled ones are paid Rs 150 per day. The minimum wage fixed by the Gujarat government for unskilled labor in these industries is Rs 214. The rest turned to street vending like her husband Saleem, with paan shops, tea shops, clothes, Chinese electronics, ceramic etc. Though with Ahmedabad being developed every month with new road-widening, road-beautification and flyover projects, there’s no room for street vendors with this progress. Shakeela’s cousin, who once sold panipuri on by Kankaria lake, has had no more access after its ‘beautification’ in 2008. Only licensed kiosks can now sell snacks to visitors. The cousin is now a daily wage laborer in a chemical factory. His entire family now accompanies him to work. Just like Shakeela’s did three decades back. The children are paid Rs 30 a day and the adults Rs 100.
After the 2012 judgment sentencing 32 convicts to life imprisonment, the threats to Shakeela have increased. The families of some of those 32 still live in that area. Every day, as they pass by, somebody or the other mentions how they will teach her a lesson for testifying in court. They do the same with other witnesses in the area.
Just yesterday when Shakeela was on the sewing machine, a woman whose husband has been convicted for rape and murder came to her door and said, “Stitch as much as you can. Will make sure this does not happen next year onwards. Tyohaar humara, paisa bane tumhara? (The festival’s ours, but you make the money?)”
Was garba-dandiya not hers to participate in? No time to waste thinking about it. She has to stitch the rest of the chaniya-cholis before the power cut in the evening.
Original Link: https://in.news.yahoo.com/chaniya-cholis–dhamaals-and-other-things-we-make-in-india-092041021.html
Original link: https://in.news.yahoo.com/chaniya-cholis–dhamaals-and-other-things-we-make-in-india-092041021.html
Hindi translation: http:// bit.ly/1A38fPu