A Festival in transit: For Muslim migrant workers, 2020’s Eid is spent in thoughts of home

"The quarantine is mandatory and I do not mind it. I feel I should have left earlier, so that I could complete my quarantine and embrace my family on Eid. Every Eid I have been with them, this is the first time I am not with them."




For 25-year-old Razzak Ansari and 30-year-old Imran Ansari, cousins from Bihar, this year’s Eid is about exhausting long walks, limited food and little deeds of kindness amid an overall persisting struggle to get back home from Gujarat.

The duo is currently onboard a Special Shramik train from Ahmedabad to Katihar, their native place in Bihar, after having been stuck in Gandhinagar for the past two months due to lockdown. The train that left from Ahmedabad around 12 am Sunday has reached Etawah in Uttar Pradesh by 7 pm in the evening and in all probability, the Ansari cousins will have to spend the Eid in transit.

For food, the duo has ‘chura’ (beaten rice) thatthey have been munching since Saturday. They claim that the train staff gave them food once in Ajmer on Sunday morning and then in Etawah by evening, which has become their delicacy this Eid.

“I had kept Roza all through Ramzan but on Saturday, since we had to walk from Gandhinagar to Ahmedabad, I decided to break my fast and eat chuda with water. We will observe Eid in the train as we have no other option,” said Razzak.

The two had to first walk from Gandhinagar and then hitch-hike to Ahmedabad on Saturday to be able to reach Sone ki Chhali from where they were helped by a social activist to get train tickets.

“We were employed on the IIT Gandhinagar campus for a construction project but due to lockdown we were stranded there for the past two months. We had registered ourselves 20 days ago at the collectorate office in Gandhinagar but we were not given any tickets. Then on Saturday, as Eid was approaching, we started to walk from Gandhinagar and got a lift at the SG Highway. We somehow reached Sone ki Chhali by evening and found other workers assembled. Over there, we found a person called Kalim Siddique who helped us with the tickets,” said Imran.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Siddique, a social activist based in Ahmedabad, said, “For the past 3-4 days, we have seen over 500 labourers being stranded in Rakhial area who wish to go back. After speaking to the Mamlatdar, we arranged tokens for them through which they boarded the train.”

However, even if Razzak and Imran manage to reach Bihar by Monday evening, home is still a long way as they will first have to spend 14 days at a government quarantine facility.

Mohammad Azahruddin Ansari (23) boarded the train from Vadodara on Wednesday to travel back to his native village in Rohtas of Bihar. He reached Bihar on Friday but is yet to meet his family. He is however glad that he will celebrate Eid in his village though not with his family.

“The quarantine is mandatory and I do not mind it. I feel I should have left earlier, so that I could complete my quarantine and embrace my family on Eid. Every Eid I have been with them, this is the first time I am not with them. Though I am very close, still I am far. But nevertheless I am happy that I am here, I am thankful, I cannot complain. I had planned a lot of presents for my parents and my younger siblings, but I could not manage anything because I have been out of work and income,” Ansari said who worked as a contractual construction labourer in Vadodara.

Similarly, Ali Hussain (27), who had traveled from Vadodara to Rasidpur in Saran district of Bihar, could not fast during the holy month of Ramadaan but is happy to be home during Eid. “I could not fast because it was difficult to arrange for food at times. But I am happy that I could come back to my village, though I am still quarantined and I am yet to meet my family. But to see the moon from here will have a different feeling altogether,” Hussain said. He worked on contractual basis to load and unload goods.

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