News of Ahmedabad Bombings from Holdeen Partner, SEWA

By UUA International Resources

Dear Friends, You may have heard about 18 bomb blasts in Ahmedabad. UU Holdeen India Program (UUHIP) is partners with Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, India. We thought we would send you a short report on what has been happening to SEWA and SEWA members so far. The following was excerpted from a letter sent by the director of SEWA, Reema Nanavaty: There were 18 blasts in Ahmedabad, all in public places, killing 54 people and injuring about 120. The most deadly blast happened in the trauma ward of the Civil hospital as the victims from other blasts began to come in for treatment. The really sad thing is that all the bombs were placed in the working class areas of Ahmedabad and most of the people who died or were injured were workers. Many of the killed or injured were from families of SEWA members. The immediate effect of the blasts was a sense of fear that covered the city. People were afraid to send their children to school, afraid to go out to social occasions and afraid to go to work. This especially affected many SEWA members as the bombs had gone off in their areas fairly close to where they live or work. This sense of security was further worsened by the rumours of new bombs--- in schools, in marketplaces, in buses--- that flew around the city, aided by mobile phones and smses. The ghastly scenes shown on TV also heightened a sense of panic. However, the Police and the media had special numbers where one could phone and find out whether these rumours were true or not. SEWA members' employment has been affected badly, especially certain groups. The worst affected are paper pickers and rag collectors. they have been instructed by the police to stay away from all garbage and waste heaps , and they themselves are also afraid to put their hands into any piles which may conceal a bomb. Street vendors too have been affected. Consumers are afraid to go to market places and so sales have reduced. Vendors too are bringing much less produce to the market as they are afraid of lo sing their wares as many did in the aftermath to the blasts. In many areas, the street vendors themselves are scared to go to work as they are the most vulnerable. In some cases employers have suspended work put of fear. Home-based kite makers have had no work since the blasts. Workers in a number of factories have been told not to come, until the employers feel the city is safe. SEWA leaders and members reacted as soon as they heard about the bombs. SEWA leaders fanned out in the areas to find out about injuries, to take people to hospital, and to make sure they got the best treatment. Individual SEWA members too reacted immediately to help--for example, one SEWA member who was visiting a relative in Civil hospital when the blast took place, immediately took up a collection from her relatives and ran to buy medicines for the injured. Given the history of the communal violence in Ahmedabad,and the speculation and rumours that these bombs were revenge for the 2002 riots, all were fearful that there would once again be communal violence. SEWA leaders took the message that all its members should be calm and make sure there was no violence in their areas. We had meetings in the Shanti Path (Way of Peace) centres of SEWA where Hindu and Muslim members discussed the incident. One member said, " In these blasts both Hindus and Muslims have died. The terrorists have no religion--they are anti-people. We must get together and defeat their designs of dividing us". The Government and the police too made sure that no one preached the message of communal violence. Many SEWA members had a lucky escape. In Hatkeshwar area, one vendor member of SEWA had brought her two small children with her after school. Later the police found an unexploded bomb three feet away from where she and her children were sitting. In Surat 21 bombs were discovered, 12 of which were near the settlements of our members. SEWA is now trying to bring an atmosphere of normalcy and make sure that all are once again fully employed and that all members stay together in the Way of Peace. With regards Yours Sincerely Reema Nanavaty SEWA. In response to the tragedy, UUA President Bill Sinkford and Executive Vice President Kathleen Montgomery, have sent the following letter of condolence to SEWA members: August 6, 2008 Dear Reema Nanavaty and SEWA leaders, It was with tremendous anguish that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) learned that nearly 200 innocent people were killed or injured during the recent bombings in Ahmedabad, and that among those injured or killed were 19 members of SEWA. The close relationship that the UUA has with SEWA, especially through the good offices of Kathy Sreedhar and the UU Holdeen India program, makes the pain that we experience from this tragedy all the more sharp. Please extend our most sincere condolences to the SEWA families touched by this tragedy, and remain assured of the UUA’s continuing commitment to your organization. In the correspondence that we received, a SEWA member was quoted as saying: "In these blasts both Hindus and Muslims have died. The terrorists have no religion--they are anti-people. We must get together and defeat their designs of dividing us". In that very spirit the UUA will pray for your continuing efforts to assure full employment for your members, and a Way of Peace in your communities. You are an inspiration to us. And, though this tragedy breaks our hearts, a future of peace, liberty and justice for all people remains our shared commitment. Sincerely, Reverend Willliam G. Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association Kathleen Montgomery, Executive Vice President, Unitarian Universalist Association The UUA is also providing financial support to SEWA to further help with their relief efforts. Individuals who would like to contribute to the relief effort may do so. Please make your check payable to UU Holdeen India Program and write "SEWA Relief" in the memo line. Mail to: Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program 666 11th Street, NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20001

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