Ahmedabad: More than 24 hours after the deadly terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left at least 49 dead and more than 40 injured, the family members and relatives of around half a dozen non-resident Gujaratis have been worried sick over no news on their loved ones’ whereabouts.
While the Gujarat government-run Non-Resident Gujarati Foundation (NRGF) puts the figure of missing non-resident Gujaratis at three, family members of at least five have been making inquiries about their kin.
Anxious and waiting
The family of one Junaid Yusuf Kara (30), a native of Masjid Faliya in Adada village, around 5 kilometres from Navsari town in South Gujarat, doesn’t know if he is alive or dead. Junaid has a general store in Christchurch.
His aunt Fatima, who also lives in New Zealand but had come to Gujarat some days back, said they got a call from relatives in New Zealand that Junaid had died; but later, while they were mourning, they were told it isn’t confirmed yet. His uncle, Fatima’s husband, Suleman said they had no clue where their nephew was. “We are all anxious and can only pray that he is alive,” he added.
Another tragic story is of a father-son duo from Memon Colony in Vadodara. Asif Vohra (58), an insurance agent, had left for New Zealand along with wife Rukhsana on 14 February. They went to oversee their pregnant daughter-in-law’s delivery and take care of the newborn — their son Ramiz (28) and his wife had settled in the island country three-odd years ago; an employee in a local company, she’d recently given birth to a girl and had been discharged from hospital on the day of the terror attack.
Asif’s sister Rehana said both Asif and Ramiz had gone for Friday prayers (namaz) in one of the two mosques that were targeted. “We haven’t got any news on them; we don’t even know if they are alive or dead. When we called on Ramiz’s phone, it rang but no one answered. We hope they are in a hospital, getting treated. We are all worried and agitated, especially my sister-in-law Rukhsana and Ramiz’s wife, and are praying for their well-being,” she added.
Unluckily in the line of fire
Fifty-two-year-old imam Hafiz Musa Wali, a native of Luwara village in Bharuch district, after spending 30 years in Fiji, had got the permanent resident status for New Zealand recently; there’s been no word on his whereabouts either and his family is still waiting for some news.
He was a cleric in the Al-Noor mosque, one of the two targeted. His elder brother Ayub, a farmer in Luwara, said Hafiz’s son Ikram Patel, who lives in Melbourne, had told him yesterday that his father had got injured in the terror attack. “Ikram had said he was rushing to Christchurch. At first, we were told that Hafiz had sustained a bullet injury in the lower half of his body and was in a hospital. But after that, we haven’t heard anything and are still waiting,” he said.
There’s no information on Mehboob Khokhar (64), hailing from Ahmedabad’s Juhapura area. The retired engineer of Gujarat Electricity Board had gone to Christchurch with wife Akhtar Begum to meet son Imran.
A relative said Mehboob had gone for namaz in one of the two mosques and was later admitted to a hospital for the injuries he sustained in the attack. “Since then, we haven’t got any news on him from any official channel,” he added.
No official word yet
Relatives claimed that even the authorities in New Zealand appeared clueless about their loved ones’ whereabouts, or they were not revealing anything for some reason. Concerned family members lamented that they were unable to track their kin through the Ministry of External Affairs or the Indian High Commission in New Zealand.
A senior NRGF official admitted that there were procedural issues. He said the authorities in New Zealand have on record only three Gujaratis missing after the attack, adding that he had taken updates from the second secretary of the Indian High Commission in New Zealand, Paramjit Singh, and as per the official information Singh shared, of the total seven NRIs in the missing list, three were Gujaratis.
The NRGF official said that due to local police rules and the ongoing investigation, names and other details of the missing have not been officially released as yet and that more details would be shared later.
He added that the foundation has been receiving continuous queries and is trying its best to provide the latest updates but local procedural reasons are hindering the quick flow of information.
(The author is an Ahmedabad-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
Updated Date: Mar 16, 2019 22:47:17 IST