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28 May 2012

SPECIAL REPORT: Is it a sin to be a Muslim in Gujarat?

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A Muslim  lady 's  ordeal in Modi's Gujarat


By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani


In  Gujarat, Muslims are still a discriminated lot even after 10 years after Godhra riots.This notion has again been proved by over zealous security check up at  Gandhinagar recently.
Muslims in Gujarat never tire of airing their resentment about the routine checking but the way investigating agencies are behaving the moment they see a person with a beard and a skull cap. This really hurts Muslims. This time a Muslim lady was victim  of being a Muslim.


She may not be a high-profile celebrity or a VVIP whose detention or frisking at an international airport would make headlines. But 40-year-old Zahira Ghoghari’s ordeal is no different, if not worse. She claims she was frisked and subjected to humiliation by security guards at Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar because she was a Muslim.


Zahira has now written to Chief Minister Narendra Modi seeking an assurance from him that the issue will be dealt with sternly and her dignity upheld.


On May 17, 2012 she along with three children and a friend visited the temple complex around 12.30 pm. While her friend Nilofer and children were let in by security personnel at the entrance after a routine check, the 40-year-old did not gain an easy entry.


Called A ‘Suspect’


“Since I had covered my head with a dupatta, one of the woman guards looked at me suspiciously and asked me my name. When I told her my name was Zahira Ghogari and I was a Muslim, the attitude of the guards towards me changed. They grilled me for 20 minutes, asking me where I stayed and what my family background was. They were very rude. While other women were being let in without being frisked, I was cornered. Later, a woman guard took me to a nearby booth and frisked me. In fact she groped me and touched my private parts. When I resisted, she told me rather rudely that the guards had orders to check every suspect,” said Zahira.


Outraged at being called a ‘suspect’, she went to the security office and saw three guards seated there. When she told them she wanted to lodge a complaint, they were forthcoming initially.


“However, when they came to know that I was a Muslim, they turned hostile and dissuaded me by saying that physical checking was a routine process. When I refused to relent and demanded an explanation for the misconduct, a guard addressed as Mr Pathak by his colleagues told me, ‘Don’t ask us, go and ask Narendra Modi. He will tell you.’” said Zahira.
While she later joined her friend and children who were strolling on the premises, “unable to forget what had happened,” Zahira left the temple premises.


Nobody Ill-treats People at Ajmer Dargah


She says it was out of respect for all religions that she decided to take her loved ones to the temple, but what she went through was unforgettable. “It is out of respect and sadbhavna that people from different religions visit the temple. I know that security is a big concern. Even Ajmer dargah has witnessed a bloody terror attack. There too security is beefed up. But people are not discriminated against on the basis of religion and harassed. Is this how women ought to be treated?” says Zahira.


Zahira had visited Akshardham with her two children, friend Nilofer and her son on May 17, 2012.


Letter To CM


She writes: “Respected sir, I am a law abiding citizen and a proud Gujarati. Sir, my name is Zahira, I am a Muslim and I am not a terrorist. My husband is a builder and enjoys good reputation in the society. I understand it is important that the security personnel remain vigilant at places like Akshardham which has been attacked in the past. But members of a particular community being discriminated against and humiliated in the name of security should not be allowed. After all that I suffered, I am not sure whether I will gather courage to visit that temple again.”


She further adds, “Sir, I have been seeing you on TV and reading about your Sadbhavana mission. The mission had brought in a sense of security and rekindled hope in me and other members of my community, who continue to be  haunted by the painful memories of riots in which they lost their family members.”


“I believe that as long as security guards like Mr Pathak continue to humiliate visitors like me under the pretext of security check, your message of sadbhavana will not have any effect. It will seem like a vain political exercise,” writes Zahira.


Mentioning that she was neither a celebrity nor a VVIP whose frisking or brief questioning at an international airport, in a foreign country would create headlines, she adds, “I am a simple, law-abiding citizen of Gujarat. I want an assurance from you that my Gujarati pride will remain intact and will not be dented by insensitive and rude security personnel like Mr Pathak.’’


Zahira is hopeful she will not only receive a reply from the chief minister, but also get justice.
An official of Akshardham temple said on condition of anonymity, “We are deeply saddened by what has happened. According to Pramukh Swami, religion is propagation of love. We do not believe in discrimination. We are investigating the case to find out who is responsible for the misconduct. Action will be taken against the security personnel who misbehaved with Zahira.”


[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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