Dubai: Two faces who became the face of Gujrat riots in 2002 in India made headlines again after 17 years. One the face of the aggressors, the other, of the victims. However, on Friday, the two came together at the inauguration of a footwear shop on Friday, giving a message of unity.
In 2002, after the infamous Gujrat riots, Ashok Parmar had been captured on camera in Ahmedabad with a saffron band around his head, brandishing an iron rod, rage on his face. Qutubuddin his bloodshot eyes welling up, had his hands folded in a prayer for mercy, his images typified the vulnerability and fear of those at the receiving end.
On Friday, Parmar's footwear shop here called "Ekta Chappal Ghar" was inaugurated by Ansari, sealing a gradual friendship that started in 2014 when they were brought together on the dais of a communal harmony programme for the first time. Tweep @SanobarFatma posted: “Unity is the only way forward”, says Ashok Parmar, the ‘aggressor’ face of 2002 Gujarat riots whose ‘Ekta’ shop is inaugurated by the man with folded hands, Qutubuddin Ansari.”
A Times of India article said that both faces were beaming at Parmar's shop in the bustling Delhi Darwaja area on Friday. It had been a long journey for the two of them before culminating in the catharsis of that moment.
On February 27, 2002, a coach of the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra station in Gujarat was set on fire, which left 59 passengers death.
The Godhra train burning incident triggered violent communal riots all over the state and claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people.
The Times of India article also reported that Parmar used to be a cobbler. He had lost his parents when he was in Class 10 and had to drop out of school to continue his father's roadside business.
He remains unmarried and lives in a nearby school that has been his night shelter for a few years.
Parmar's life changed when Kaleem Siddiqui, a Leftist from Kerala, took him to his state in 2014 to campaign for CPM ahead of general elections.
P Jayarajan, a CPM leader, started assisting him financially and even offered him a job there, which he refused. "I decided not to go to Kerala as language was a big hurdle," Parmar said.
Parmar was aware of the struggles faced by Ansari who, supported by Bengal CPM leader Mohammed Salim, had shifted to Kolkata with his family by then.
But unable to adjust, Ansari chose to return to Ahmedabad after some years. He now runs a successful tailoring business and has a wife and children.
Parmar has struck a rapport with Ansari over the years and had been invited to release the latter's biography in Malayalam, "Me Qutubuddin Ansari", in Kerala.
"I am happy that a new chapter has started in Ashokbhai's life," Ansari said on Friday. The duo, who weren't named in any case pertaining to the 2002 riots as a perpetrator or victim, are overwhelmed by the compassion shown to them. Both believe that horrors like 2002 are best forgotten. "Ekta or unity is the only way forward," Parmar said.