This story of friendship is no less than yesteryear Bollywood movie Dosti. Qutubuddin Ansari and Anand Saraf symbolise the cause of humanity and communal harmony as the tale of their friendship gives only one message: We all are Indians first.
Their friendship started soon after the Godhra incident on February 27, 2002 that triggered the Gujarat riots on February 28 and March 1. The photograph of a weeping Ansari, begging for his life, became the defining image of the riots.
Back then, Saraf contacted Ansari and assured him that the riots are a result of vested interests of a handful people, but by and large, the society is not communal. Saraf eventually invited Ansari to Pune and they became friends.
The hope that Saraf presented in Ansari’s life forged their frienship. Saraf took Anasari to a handful of schools in Pune where he tried to inculcate the spirit of being an Indian among the children. Saraf said, “We took Ansari to schools in Pune and told children that the National Pledge, published in all textbooks, tells us that all Indians are brothers and sisters. If we don’t practise what it says, communal harmony will be a distant dream.”
Ansari recalls, “It was a very bad phase after 2002, since I could not forget the incident of March 1 when I was kneeling in front of a few Rapid Action Force officers from first floor of a building. I was not aware that someone was taking a picture. But it changed my life and brought more friends than enemies. Now I can work towards bringing communities together. My photograph was used by many for their own purposes, including terrorist organisations, but people like Saraf and many came forward to give me confidence that everyone wants peace.”
Ansari and Saraf eventually became family friends, along with Ashok Mehendale, who founded Sainik Mitra Parivar with Saraf. While Saraf sends rakhis to the Ansari family, Ansari sends shirts and sarees to the Sarafs to Pune. While Ansari invited Saraf and Mahendale for his daughter, Rukaiahbano’s wedding nearly two years back, Saraf invited Ansari for his son’s wedding, where he was on Saturday.
After the 2008 blasts in New Delhi, the Indian Mujahidin released Qutubuddin Ansari’s photograph and wrote that the blasts were an answer to Godhra. While Ansari had been unaware of the development, he had to face an inquiry. A friend of his, Jagdish Tiwari from his Rahimatnagar locality, gave a written assurance about Ansari to the police.