Gujarat Riots: What Went On In The Minds Of The Men Who Made Up The Mob?

Revati Laul
A 2002 photo of a Hindu mob waving swords during communal riots in Ahmedabad.

Of all the signs telling Abdul Majid his world was about to crumble, the khichdi is the one that truly hit home. It was the middle of the afternoon on 28 February 2002 when the mob closed in on Naroda Patiya. Majid was hiding on a terrace when Jai Bhawani spotted him from below and went up to talk to him.

'Majidbhai,' he said, 'you guys have been hungry since the morning. Come down and bring me those large cooking vessels from your kitchen. I'll make some kadhi khichdi.'

Majid stood up suddenly. 'Kadhi khichdi? Kadhi khichdi! But that's food for a funeral,' he said, feeling a sudden surge of panic.

'Yes,' Jai Bhawani replied. 'You are all going to die.'

Majid ran down the stairs. He had locked his wife and kids and mother-in-law in a temple right behind the house, where he assumed that Jai Bhawani would keep them safe. The friendly neighbour he thought he could trust.

Majid scrambled to let them out. They ran together. Separately. Then in broad daylight, everything went dark. Majid lay in a heap near Teesra Kuan, the Third Well, struck in the back of his head by what felt like a sword. As he was fading in and out of consciousness, he heard his daughter calling out to him from the nearby park. 'Abba, abbaaaaa ...' By the time he came to, her body was cold. He had lost six children, his pregnant wife and mother-in-law. Looking back, Majid counted the signs he had missed the day before.

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There had been signs. At the street corner, away from the screeching buses on the main road, Majid had overheard traders and autorickshaw drivers discuss the possibility of violence erupting in this part of Ahmedabad. Revenge, he heard, was spreading its tentacles across the state of Gujarat after fifty-nine Hindu volunteers from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, the World Hindu Council, were burnt alive on a train. The bogey they were in had caught fire in a Muslim-majority town called...

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