Ram-Rahim Nagar has a population of over 20,000, of which 60% are Muslims and the rest Hindus – a delicate demographic composition that has remained undisturbed for the past four decades despite major riots in 1969, 1985, 1992 and 2002. The slum stretches roughly half a kilometre in the densely populated textile suburb, and was originally known as Gulab Bhai no Tekro, or Maharaj na Tekra. It was inhabited mostly by migrant workers from Banaskantha in north Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
After the 1969 riots, the slum-dwellers decided to keep away anti-social elements and came together to form a welfare society called Ram-Rahim Nagar. The year was 1974, and the men behind this initiative were the late Ghazi Bhai and the late Kashi Maharaj. “They were security guards at a textile mill. They finalised the name — Ram-Rahim — as a tribute to the fact that a Hanuman temple and a dargah stood cheek-by-jowl at our slum. Nurturing mutual respect and communal harmony ever since has helped us withstand every communal riot that hit Ahmedabad,” says Kanhaiyalal Parmar, a resident. “People here are not concerned with mandir-masjid because they know they will be the ultimate sufferers in the event of communal disturbances.”
Ram-Rahim Nagar has not experienced riots ever since the Ram-Rahim Welfare Committee came into existence. The committee comprises 21 members headed by a chairman, a post that rotates between a Hindu and a Muslim every year. If the chairman is a Hindu, his deputy is a Muslim, and vice-versa. Members are drawn equally from the two communities.
Read more: Communal Harmony