Fourteen years ago, Qutubuddin Ansari became the involuntary face of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A photograph of Ansari, who was 29 at that time – his eyes bloodshot, fear flashed across his face, hands folded in helpless submission to escape mob fury – became the defining image of the human tragedy that claimed over 1,000 lives, majority of them Muslims.

Even today, a quick image search on Google on Gujarat riots will show you the same image of Ansari, who just can’t seem to leave behind his past. 

Now, after 14 years, he has finally spoken up and has taken a strong exception to political parties using his image for political gains, reports Mumbai Mirror.

This comes after the Congress party in Assam, hoping to play upon the emotions of people, recently published ads featuring Qutubuddin Ansari (without his permission) to revive the memories of Gujarat riots in the last leg of polling. The advertisement. which carries his picture, asks voters, “Does Mr Modi’s Gujarat always mean development? Do you want Assam to be a Gujarat of this kind?”

b’A photograph of Ansari. Source: BBC’

Miffed by the ads, Ansari has spoken up against political parties trying to capitalise on his image. He told Mumbai Mirror:

Every time this happens, life becomes more difficult for me. I am 43 and in the past 14 years, I have been “used and misused” by political parties, Bollywood and even terror outfits. I wish I had died in 2002 because I am not able to answer my children when they ask me “Papa, every time we saw your picture, why are you crying and begging?”

Ever since his terrorised face became the face of riots, Ansari says his life got miserable with him losing his job and mental peace. Soon after the riots, Ansari had moved to Kolkata but at the insistence of his ailing mother, he returned to Gujarat in 2008.

Even now, Ansari says that  people recognise him all across the country and that there have been Hindus who have approached him with folded hands, offering apology.