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Masturat Trust: An oasis of hope

By Rupa Abdi, TwoCircles.net

After the 2002 communal riots of Gujarat, while the politicians were busy reaping the benefits of the violence and hatred that they had unleashed, and the media was busy writing about it, it was left to a few individuals like Mehrunisa Mansuri, resident of Juhapura – on of the communal cauldrons of Ahmedabad, to pick up the pieces.

She, along with a few like minded women and men, sheltered widows and orphans rendered homeless after the riots, irrespective of their religion and caste. Her work continued long after the plight of the riot victims had disappeared from public memory. This was how The Gujarat Masturat Seva Trust came into being. The Trust was recently a focus of media attention in Gujarat for setting a unique example in communal harmony by sheltering a Hindu widow and daughter duo, who were one of the many victims of the 2002 riots, and also arranging and hosting their marriages. Pushpa, the mother, whose husband was killed in the riots, was remarried a few years ago by the Trust and last week her daughter, Rinku was married to Vishal Singh, a resident of Bhavnagar.

In an informal chat with this writer, Mehrunisa, or Mehruben, as she is commonly addressed by everyone, talked about the Trust’s work and the problems faced by women belonging to poor families in the cities of Gujarat. The Trust has been actively working in rehabilitation of widows and orphans – victims of the riots as well as women who had to leave their homes or were thrown out due to domestic violence or divorce. The Trust finances the education of children and helps the women to become financially self sufficient by teaching them various skills like sewing, textile painting, mehedi design, computer literacy etc. At present the Trust is sheltering about 60 widows and 120 children in its Widow Home. The Trust has also been providing house hold utensils, sewing machines and financial aid to help resettle the destitute families. The Trust also regularly takes up cases of domestic violence following it up with counseling and police intervention when needed. With the help of financial grants from the Prime Minister’s fund, the Trust is now planning to build a ladies hostel for widows, and other needy women near Ahmedabad. The Trust has also been getting a lot of support from the Gujarati Muslim Association of America.

Married and happy, Rinku and Vishal. Photo by Razi Abdi.

According to Mehruben, the problems faced by the poor Muslim women are not very different from those faced by her Hindu sisters. Domestic violence and polygamy seems to be equally common among both Hindus and Muslims belonging to the lower income groups. The husbands often bring another woman home, with the original wife and her children suffering neglect or often being rendered homeless. Added to this is the burden of feeding many children. The average number of children among the poor families is four to five.

Mehruben believes that police and court cases should be the last resort since these often lead to broken homes and unhappy families. She is a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and feels that apart from education and employment opportunities for women, character building is vital for the development of any community and country and the maulanas and gurus can play a major role in this.

Help GMST in their work:

Mehrunisa Mansur
The Gujarat Masturat (Mahila) Seva Trust
Bukhara Hostel Building
Khamasa (Dhalgarwad),
Ahmedabad – 380001
Ph. no. +91 79 22165064/ 25321551