CAIRO - Overcoming memories of being hacked to death at the hands of their Hindu neighbors, a Gujarat Muslim charity has extended a helping hand to make ends meet for needy Hindu widows.
"Godhra earned a bad name after the 2002 riots and there was a general perception that Hindus and Muslims don't stay in harmony here," Mufti Haroon Sindhi, president of Hamdard Charitable Trust (HCT), told The Times of India on Monday, June 24.The trust decided to extend support to Hindu widows and strengthen the unity between two communities.
The Muslim charity offers regular food provisions for widows, including 54 Hindus.
Kala Patel, a 40-year-old Hindu, is one of the widows who get support from the Muslim charity.
With her meager earnings as a cook, Patel used to struggle to make ends meet for her three children.
At the Sardar Nagar Hall, she was surprised to get an unexpected support from HCT, which offered her three-month provisions and eatables for the family.
Sharda Bhoi, 50, whose husband died in an accident 15 years ago, was also grateful to Muslims.
"It was a touching gesture from the Muslim trust and I cannot express how much this means to me," said Bhoi.
The Muslim charity's efforts came to break new grounds for relations between Muslims and Hindus.
Relations between Muslims and Hindus have been strained since the 2002 massacre of Muslims in the state.
More than 2,000 Muslims were hacked and burnt to death in Gujarat in 2002 by Hindu mobs after Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire first blamed on Muslims but which a later inquiry concluded was accidental.
Several investigations at the state and federal levels accused police of failing to protect Muslims under orders from state premier Modi and his aides, fanning one of the worst instances of sectarian violence in India.
In August 2012, an Indian court sentenced a former Indian state minister from the BJP to 28 years in jail party.
Located in Godhra, the Muslim charity had a tough mission to restore communal harmony in the area, which was the ground zero of 2002 Gujarat riots.
I am sure that this Sadbhavna [communal harmony] will go a long way in forging strong ties between both the communities, Sindhi said.
Women, especially widows, are neglected in our society, so we felt the need to help them lead a respectful life.
We will continue supporting Hindu widows.
Nalin Bhatt, a community leader from Dahod who attended the event, shared a similar opinion.
"It's a sign of Sadbhavna from Muslims and I hope that Hindus too reciprocate, he said.
Both the communities have always stayed together in Godhra."
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India and they have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life.
Gujarat's Muslim population is barely 10 percent, but in some areas and three Parliamentary constituencies in Kutch, Ahmedabad and Bharuch, Muslims make up at between 16-17 percent.Indian Muslims accuse the media and authorities of boosting stereotypes about their religion. Muslims also complain of a long history of neglect.