“I’m always escorted by 4 security guards, no matter where I go. I was once in the hospital for almost a month and the security was there at the hospital every single day. I go to the court house and they are there with me.” – said Ammi.
Ammi, was none other than the wife of late Ehsaan Jafri, the member of parliament who was brutally killed in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. She was visiting her daughter Nishrin Hussain who luckily was just at a couple of hours of driving distance from where we lived.
4 of us left early in the morning so we can head back home before the snow storm – yes there was a 4-8 inches of snow predicted later in the afternoon. We were welcomed by her daughter Nishrin Hussain and her husband.
Ammi was watching one of the reality based singing shows where all the (forced) retired cricket players – Harbhajan, Sreesanth, Zaheer khan were the judges. After having read about what happened to Ehsaan Jafri and how Ammi had been fighting a lone battle since his murder in 2002, it was very surreal to see and meet Ammi in person. Clad in a black sweater, wearing a gentle smile on her face, she looked as ordinary an individual as anyone else could. She had no qualms about meeting 4 complete strangers on a cold winter saturday afternoon.
Ammi fondly recalled how she was born into a Zaminder family but soon after she married Ehsaan Jafri, she had to moved into a rather moderate household. Mr Ehsaan Jafri was a lawyer by profession but his passion to serve the people saw him rise from the union leader to a congress stalwart from Ahmedabad and went on to win the MP seat when congress was routed during the emergency. Mr Jafri had lot of good will and lot of local support, which is why he chose to settle down in a rather Hindu dominated locality. He however, never saw the people as Hindu’s or Muslim’s, but just saw them as people who were good neighbors. And Nargis and her two brothers were also brought up this way.
But the fateful night in 2002, as recalled by Ammi, was anything but what Mr Jafri had always believed. Ammi mentioned how Mr Jafri was butchered in the most barbaric manner and how helpless even an ex-MP was. Quickly switching the topics (since I/we had heard/read about the fateful night many a times in the past and didn’t have enough courage), Ammi spoke about the ongoing fight for justice. She had just sent some documents to Gujarat courts , to which Nishrin added, how the first time the papers were rejected, on the grounds of using a wrong colored A2 sized paper. They then got the correct legal papers from India and filed the appeal. Ammi spends most of the time thinking about the legal battle and she said it’s been 13 long years since she had fighting year after year, only now she had become little less mobile due to her bad knee condition.
In between these conversations, we had some very good lunch, prepared by Nishrin under the strict oversight of Ammi.
Nishrin, is truly a fathers daughter. She shared many pictures of her father, mostly black and white from the 60’s when he led protests on the streets to when he was addressing large audience as an elected MP. She also told many stories about her father – one of which summarizes Mr Jafri’s passion towards the people he was committed to help. Nishrin had bought a pullman (luggage with wheels) as a gift but Mr Jafri refused to take it, since he believed it would hurt the coolies income. Nishrin also added how she felt they were fortunate despite what had happened to their family since she believed her father lived his life to the fullest but she knew many kids whose life came to an abrupt ending on that day and those who survived are no less better since they have been cornered to live in their own communities and completely isolated.
We had some interesting discussions and debates on the religious divides and also about the people who get caught up in these fights. More often than not its not the people who divide but the politicians who do so for political gains. Unfortunately there is no easy answer to these problems but one thing that could be done at an individual is to be more open, more tolerant, more accepting and more forgiving – just like Ammi, who despite everything that had happened in her life, she has no animosity, no hatred but only respect for others and a never ending optimism.
Anyways, we still don’t know why we went to meet Nishrin and Ammi in particular, but as one of my friends rightly put it – may be deep down we just wanted to say sorry for what had happened and for what is still happening.