Ahmedabad, September 7: Seventeen years after the horrific Gujarat riots, a story of an unprecedented friendship has come to the fore. Qutubuddin Ansari, whose image shot by a magazine turned into the "face of fear" during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, inaugurated the footwear shop of Ashok Parmar, an "aggressor". The shop, named by Parmar as "Ekta", is aimed at promoting communal harmony. Godhra Train Burning 2002 Case: Yakub Pataliya Sentenced to Life Imprisonment For Setting Sabarmati Express Ablaze.
At the inauguration of the shop in Ahmedabad's Delhi Darwaja area on Friday, both of them said whatever happened in 2002 should be forgotten and moved on. Parmar added that he is grateful to Ansari for suppressing the ill-feelings and blessing him with his business.
Notably, Ansari's image with folded hands and blood flowing over his head and eyes - as captured by a magazine - had formed the "face of fear" during the riots. Parmar was also photographed by the same publication with weapons in his hand and rage on his face.
The official records, however, do not list either Ansari as a victim or Parmar as an accused. But their lives were deeply impacted due to the communal riots of 2002.
Parmar, an orphan who then worked as a cobbler, repented over his action and turned away from the fringe anti-Muslim groups. He came in contact with Kaleem Siddiqui, a Leftist from Kerala, who took him to CPM leader P Jayarajan.
After meeting Jayarajan, Parmar was convinced that he needs to work for consolidating communal harmony in the nation. It was in 2014 when he met Ansari -- who was also provided support by CPM MP Mohammed Salim after his life was devastated in the riots.
Ansari and Parmar had shared the stage in 2014 while campaigning for Jayarajan in the elections. Both of them had then urged the people to refrain from backing leaders or groups who are pitting one community against each other.
Notably, the Gujarat riots had claimed over 2,000 lives and left nearly 20,000 people displaced. The violence was spread over three days, and had evoked strong reaction from secular voices in India and across the world.