In Juhapura, Muskan gets to smile


Over 300 children in Juhapura, home to Ahmedabad's largest Muslim population, have never been to school. A municipal school may finally make up for that lost childhood By RITU SHARMA

As she hauls her school bag onto her shoulders with obvious care, Muskan Mir tells you she wants to be a teacher. The volunteers who instruct her at a nearby tent say she is among the brightest children they have. Only, Muskan, born a few days after the 2002 Gujarat riots, has never been to a proper school.

Juhapura is Ahmedabad's largest Muslim-inhabited area. Since 2002, it has also housed nearly 1,000 Muslims displaced by the riots who have been living in more than 100 tents. With no government school nearby, a generation of children here such as Muskan has gone without schooling. That may change now, with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation last Monday announcing a primary school, an urban health centre and an anganwadi centre near where the tents are located. All these are to come up within a year.

As you enter the area, a board declaring "Bharat desh ke Juhapura vistar me aapka swagat hai (India's Juhapura area welcomes you)" strikes you. And then does the irony of it.

One of the worst-affected areas of the 2002 riots in Ahmedabad, which took in many of the riot displaced, swelling its population to nearly four lakh, Juhapura has almost fallen off the government's map since. Once falling under the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority and since 2007, under the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, it has no basic infrastructure, with even buses not running regularly through it anymore.

Muskan is among more than 300 children, between the ages of one and 14 at the camp for the riot-displaced, who go to a nearby tent to study. The camp goes by the name 'Barf Factory Basti', located as it is right opposite an ice factory. Nearly 80 per cent of these 300 children were born after 2002.

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