DEFYING NaMo (Narendra Modi)

Zahid Qureshi and Swapna Pillai


The two (Qutubuddin Ansari and  Ashok Mochi) met at the unlikeliest of places – a CPI (M) seminar in Kannur, Kerala – where they joined in a duet of peace and brotherhood, singing and shaking hands.


One is the face of Gujarat riots, the other the defining image of its perpetrators. They met on Monday at the unlikeliest of places – a CPI (M) seminar in Kannur in Kerala and did something implausible – joining in a duet of peace and brotherhood.


While Qutubuddin Ansari’s face – caked with dust, tears and dried blood as he pleaded with security forces to save him from rampaging rioters – had become the image of 2002 riots; Ashok Mochi’s picture, a saffron band around his head, a rod in one hand and the other clinched into a fist, represented the blood-thirst of the aggressors.


They would have never met in Gujarat, where almost all cities and towns are now neatly divided into Muslim ghettos and Hindu enclaves. But here they were in Kannur, sharing the stage at a seminar titled ‘A Decade of Genocide’. They sang, shook hands, and Ansari accepted a rose from Mochi. Behind them were posters carrying the pictures that had made them famous.


While the political overtone of the event was hard to ignore in an election year, one did feel like buying into the imagery – the dream of ‘and they lived happily ever after.’


A book based on Ansari’s experience of riots and post-riots Gujarat — ‘Njan Qutubuddin Ansari’ (I am Qutubuddin Ansari) — was released at the event, marveled at the fact that he was seated next to Mochi. “Even though we are both Gujaratis, we could not have met in Gujarat like this. This is a new experience for me,” he said.


Ansari said that Mochi, who was charged under sections 435 and 436 (arson and causing destruction by fire) and spent nearly two weeks in prison, wasn’t the first Hindu to apologise to him for the riots. “A retired army officer named Anand Shroff, a resident of Pune, had apologised to me on behalf of the Hindu community some years back. Today, my brother Ashok Mochi has asked for forgiveness. It means a lot to me. Let this be the beginning of a new chapter in humanity,” he said.


Mochi, who looked nothing like his famous picture — now clean shaven and the middle parting giving way to a neater side parting – called the riots a mistake. “It was a huge blunder. I do not know what to say, I have never addressed so many people in my life. But I cannot leave without talking about insaaniyat (humanity) — that is what I have learnt over these years,” he said.


They sang the famous song from Manoj Kumar-starrer Purab Paschim ‘Hai preet jahan ki reet sada…’ completely out of tune. For sure, the crowd comprising mostly of Malayalees did not get a word of it. But the message somehow must have reached, because the applause was loud.


Both Mochi and Ansari were critical of Modi and his development model. “Where is development in Gujarat? Any talk of development is just a sham. I still live on a footpath in Lal Darwaza. I am still single. I can’t afford to get married because of my financial status,” said Mochi, 39.


Ansari said Modi by posing with Muslim leaders is trying to cultivate the impression that the community is now with him. “The truth is that the BJP has done nothing for Muslims. People living in other states should know this truth. That is the reason I have come up with the book,” said Ansari.


The event was organised by the Co -ordination Committee of Minority Organisations, an arm of CPI (M).


This February 28, 2002 image of Bajrang Dal activist Ashok Mochi, one hand clenched in a fist, the other wielding an iron rod, taken by former Mumbai Mirror photo editor Sebastian D’souza,made him the face of the Gujarat riot’s perpetrators


Qutubuddin Ansari unwittingly came to personify the victims’ terror with this iconic photograph of him begging security forces to rescue him from a rampaging mob. Taken a day after the one on the left, the photograph earned Mirror photo editor Arko Datta a World Press Photo award

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