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From Swords to Smiling Faces:`Ekta Chappal Shop' Brings Together Two Faces of 2002 Gujarat Riots

Ashok Parmar's pictures, brandishing a rod, came to symbolise the rage and defiance of the mobs that went on a rampage after the Godhra train burning incident. The picture of Qutubuddin Ansari, showing pain, helplessness and despair of riot victims, became another defining image of the riots.

PTI

Updated:September 7, 2019, 10:50 PM IST
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From Swords to Smiling Faces:`Ekta Chappal Shop' Brings Together Two Faces of 2002 Gujarat Riots
A Muslim woman and child walk through a locality of the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad (PTI)
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Ahmedabad: Ashok Parmar, a Hindu, and Qutubuddin Ansari, a Muslim, unwittingly became two haunting faces of the 2002 Gujarat riots. The two came together at the inauguration of a footwear shop on Friday, giving a message of unity, and also indicating that much water has flown under the bridge.

Ashok Parmar's pictures, brandishing a rod, came to symbolise the rage and defiance of the mobs which went on a rampage after the Godhra train burning incident. The picture of Ansari, showing pain, helplessness and despair of riot victims, became another defining image of the riots, among the most horrific episode of communal violence in India.

On Friday, Ansari and Parmar were the cynosure of all eyes, and of shutterbugs, as they got together to inaugurate Parmar's shoe shop in Dilli Darwaza, an area with mixed population, in Ahmedabad city.

Parmar has christened the outlet 'Ekta Chappal Shop', an attempt to be as explicit as possible for those who refuse to get the message. The two have been friends ever since social workers arranged a meeting in 2012.

"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 us wants violence," Parmar said.

Parmar used to mend shoes for a living earlier. He got financial help from the Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to open his own footwear shop. In the widely circulated photograph from 2002, Parmar, in saffron bandana, is captured brandishing iron rod with his arms out-strteched and rage in his eyes, with burning tyres in the background.

Ansari, on the other hand, was shown with his palms brought together and eyes welled up with tears, as he appeared to plead for mercy from rioters. Recalling the circumstances in which his photograph was taken, Parmar said he was overcome with anger.

"I was angry with what happened in Godhra and the situation in Ahmedabad during the riots. I am a daily wager. Due to the violence, I was not able to earn anything, which made me angry," he said.

"But the photograph did not express my feelings in the right manner, as I was wrongly associated with the violence. I was linked to the BJP and Bajrang Dal, which was false," he said.

Ansari, a tailor, said he readily agreed to Parmar's proposal that he inaugurate the shop, as he believed it will send out a message of unity. "We are good friends. We meet each other regularly. He wanted me to inaugurate his shop. I wish him the best in life," Ansari said.

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