Qutubuddin Ansari, a Muslim, and Ashok Parmar alias Mochi, a Hindu, who were on the front page of several national dailies for a prolonged period during the 2002 Gujarat riots were seen together while inaugurating the latter’s shoe store.
Pictures of Ansari in a blood-stained shirt, begging for mercy with folded hands, and that of Parmar screaming with an iron rod in hand, symbolise one of the darkest times in Gujarat’s history.
Communal Harmony Exemplified
However, on September 6, the sight was significantly different. Ansari was invited to inaugurate the Mochi’s shoe store named “Ekta Chappal Ghar” (Unity Shoe Store) located near BRS bus stand in Delhi Darwaja area in Ahmedabad, and shutterbugs could not help but click pictures.
The two have been in constant touch ever since social workers arranged a meeting in 2012.
On the eve, Parmar said, “ We want to tell the world that we are one as humans, and respect each other’s religion. Ahmedabad was known for communal riots in the past, now it should be known for Hindu-Muslim unity. None of wants violence.”
Parmar has been in the shoe repairing business for more than 25 years on the footpath near the Delhi Darwaza area. He told The Indian Express that the metro construction in the area has negatively affected his livelihood.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala came to his rescue and raised fund for his shop. Parmar will now be selling ready-made shoes, bought from the wholesale market of Ahmedabad.
Ansari, a tailor who temporarily shifted to West Bengal when the riots were at the peak, said after cutting the ribbon, “ I hope Ashok does well in life. It was difficult for him to work on the footpath. We have seen tough days in the past. I pray for him.” After inaugurating the store, he bought a pair of slippers for himself.
Both Ansari and Parmar were seen campaigning for the CPI(M) candidate P Jayaraja, who contested from Vatakara constituency in north Kerala.