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July 1: Observing communal harmony day in Ahmedabad, a highly segregated city

Activists at Vasant-Rajab memorial on July 1
By Rajiv Shah
Celebrated as Communal Harmony Day in Ahmedabad, July 1, 2021 is remembered for the sacrifice of two friends, Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani, laid down their lives for the cause of communal harmony on the July 1, 1946 in the city. A memorial stands in their memory in Khandni Sheri, Jamalpur, Ahmedabad.Ahmedabad is perhaps the most communally divided city. Segregated into Hindu and Muslim localities, what shocked me when I reached Ahmedabad to join the Times of India in 1993 was, you had to search with a microscope for a Muslim family living in the entire western area of the city, known for as the business capital of Gujarat. It's not very different in the Muslim area, called Juhapura, where virtually no Hindu family dares live! 
Be that as it may, recalling the event, a Delhi-based human rights organisation, Anhad, which has decided to remember the the sacrifice on July 1 through an online event, says, “It was the day of Rath Yatra and the atmosphere was communally charged. People who were concerned were trying their best to calm down the communal passion. Vasant and Rajab were engaged in saving Hindu and Muslim Families throughout the day of the RathYatra.”
It continues, “They saved a Muslim driver from rioting Hindu mob and a Hindu owner of Washing Company from the Muslim mob. As this was going on, a disturbing news arrived in the evening from Jamalpur that at Khand–Ni- Sheri, of Jamalpur area that a Dalit family was being surrounded by a frenzied mob. As soon as the news came, Vasant-Rajab rushed to the spot.”
Pointing out that “they tried their best to pacify the mob but it was no mood to listen to them”, the Anhad statement says, “Instead, the mob threatened them. But Vasant-Rajab did not budge an inch and said that they would prefer to die and slept on the road to prevent the mob. Their courageous acts moved many hearts but the diehards killed Vasant-Rajab and then moved away sparing the Dalit family and the Basti.”
“Their sacrifice could finally put off the flame of communal fire”, Anhad, which has been observing July 1 as the communal harmony day since 2003, adds. This year, because of the pandemic, it is not possible to do a physical programme.

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