Two brothers, who survived the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre here, are contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Gujarat. Imtiyaz Khan Pathan (42) is a candidate of the Apna Desh Party from Kheda, while his elder brother Firoz Khan Pathan (45) has filed his nomination as an Independent from Gandhinagar, where he is pitted against BJP chief Amit Shah.
The Pathan brothers lost as many as 10 members of their family, including their mother and grandmother, when an angry mob attacked the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad after the 2002 Godhra train burning incident. Imtiyaz Khan now lives in Gomtipur area of the city while his elder brother resides in Vejalpur, which falls under the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat.
While Imtiyaz Khan is the key prosecution witness in the Gulberg case, his brother had lodged a complaint against social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand for alleged misuse of funds collected for the riot victims. "By deciding to contest from Gandhinagar, I want to give a message to Amit Shah that I am coming to fight against you," Firoz Khan said.
"Though I am a Muslim, many of my Hindu friends have extended their support to me. I am confident that Hindus will give me votes, as my ultimate aim is to establish communal harmony. I will embark on a door-to-door campaign in the coming days," he said. Ever since he turned against Setalvad, he was perceived as a supporter of the BJP.
However, Firoz Khan claimed he has not taken the plunge into electoral politics just to help the saffron party by dividing the anti-BJP votes. "If that was the case, I may have become a crorepati by know. But, I still live in a small flat and own only a scooter. I am fighting the poll so that I can represent minorities in Parliament as there is no Muslim MP from Gujarat since long. I am also fighting to spread the message of communal harmony," he asserted.
Echoing similar views, Imtiyaz Khan said both the BJP and Congress did nothing for the riot victims. "We are victims of the 2002 riots. We are fighting for justice for the last 17 years. Firoz and I lost our mother, grandmother and eight other relatives. The BJP and Congress did nothing for people like us," he said.
"I am fighting this election because I strongly believe there must be a leader of minorities who can raise our issues at the national level," he said. Though Dalits, Thakors and Patels have their leaders in Gujarat, there is no one for Muslims, he said.
"I also want to spread the message of peace and harmony, so that no other community has to suffer what we went through," the younger sibling said. Sixty-eight people, including former MP Eehsan Jafri, were killed at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, a day after the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt at Godhra, triggering riots in Gujarat.
Polling in all 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held on April 23, and the results will be announced on May 23.
(With inputs from agencies.)