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INDIA BEATS

The sparkle is back in their lives

RANA SIDDIQUI

Child victims of the Gujarat genocide find love and happiness in Delhi.


Happy Home was formed after the members of the foundation went to help the victims of Gujarat riots in 2002. They were shocked to see children reeling under the after-effects of losing their parents and other family members.



Infectious smiles: Enjoying themselves at Happy Home. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

"I WANT to become a pilot when I grow up." This is the innocent aspiration of 12-year-old Taj Mohammed, his eyes brimming with confidence. "I see myself as a teacher, teaching free of cost those who can't afford expensive education," says a shy little girl, Tahmina, who has seen just seven summers. There are others who want to become doctors and engineers too.

Horrid past

Some four years ago, these children didn't have such focus in their lives. They were aggressive, scared, bewildered, vengeful as much as they were hapless. A look at them with the slightest twitch of eyebrows would make them uneasy. Mere mention of their past would bring tears to their eyes. But now they are enjoying life. They have started looking forward to having better things in life. These are the children belonging to the families affected by the Gujarat genocide. They have been rehabilitated in Delhi by the Zakat Foundation of India. It is for the first time in 75 years that the riot-affected children have been rehabilitated in such a manner in Delhi. They live in the foundation-funded, 18-room dwelling called Happy Home at 11, Khajoori Road, Okhla, in South Delhi.

Cared for

Happy Home was formed after the members of the foundation went to help the victims of Gujarat riots in 2002. They were shocked to see small children reeling under the after-effects of losing their parents and other family members in front of their eyes in the gruesome tragedy. "We decided to bring some of these children to Delhi because we thought if we allow them to stay there, they will not be able to forget the incident. They may take to arms, become terrorists and so on," says the Secretary of the foundation.

Then, they adopted 27 children in the age group of three-and-a-half to seven years old. Now, this number has increased to 46. The youngest is Fatima, who is three years old and the eldest is Javed, who is 14. The foundation takes care of the education, food, lodging, clothing, medical and other needs of these children. There are lady wardens to take care of them round the clock. They have indoor games like table tennis, besides television and toys for company. They study in an English medium public school nearby called God's Grace. Once a month, they go for a picnic and they are supposed to see a psychiatrist periodically to analyse their mental status. Now the foundation has planned to build two separate hostels to accommodate 300 children, 150 boys and 150 girls. The land, measuring 1,100 square yards, has already been purchased some two kilometres away from Happy Home. The hostel may be completed in a couple of years depending upon the flow of donations.

Though the children go to visit their kith and kin in Gujarat during summer vacation, they don't want to stay there any more as they have started liking Delhi and have found true love at Happy Home.

Positive results

"We never allow any visitor to talk to them about their past," says a Happy Home official, who is a practising doctor but spends time with kids during the weekends to give them a feel of home away from home. Many such volunteers take the kids for a picnic or for lunch with their families. This again is done to give the children a feeling of warmth, cutting across all red tape.

And one sees a tremendous change in them now. Earlier, they liked guns; now they love to play with stethoscopes, helicopters, dollhouses, books and soft toys. "If we try to take revenge on the wrong doers, what will be the difference between them and us?" asks 13-year-old Wasim, a student of fifth standard.

India Beats features stories of the unusual, the exotic and the extraordinary.

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