Haryana : 500 people flee homes after riots near Faridabad
Faridabad (Matters India)— More than 500 Muslim men, women and children have been taking refuge at Faridabad’s Balabgarh police station since Monday evening after being forced to flee from their homes in Attari village of the district in midst of violent attacks. The attacks were allegedly carried out by the majority Jat community following a dispute over the construction of a mosque.
The village has a population of about 10,000 of which about 550 are Muslim.
While close to 25 people were left injured, a dozen houses, shops and as many as 15 vehicles were gutted in the ensuing violence perpetrated by a mob of more than 2,000 people. The situation was brought under control by 1,500 armed police officials, nearly four hours after it had started. Muslim villagers were escorted out of the area in police vehicles and taken to a police station 15km away.
Deputy commissioner of police Vijay Partab said that 20 people have been identified as the main perpetrators of the violence but no arrests were made till late evening on Tuesday as all of the men have been absconding, DNA reported.
Meanwhile, the villagers spent their second day inside the police station complex after a makeshift tent was put in place for them by authorities.
Thirty-one-year-old Shehzad Khan, who owns a small automobile business in the same area, with the help of other youth had made available water and food for the villagers who sat outside the police demanding protection from further attacks. “Our homes, cars, motorcycles and the mosque itself was burnt. The women and children were not spared either,” claimed Khan who was busy distributing water and milk among the women.
Naseema among was one of the injured women. “I was sitting at home with my cousin, Samina when 20-25 people entered including women. They started abusing us and hitting us with bricks and sticks. They told us that they won’t allow us to construct the mosque and keep living here,” she said.
The village’s Muslim locality wore a deserted look as it reeled under prohibitory orders. The entire place smelt of charred wood and burning cattle feed. The mosque’s wall was brought down and houses as well as shops in close proximity pelted with stones and petrol bombs thrown into them resulting in subsequent fires which took the entire night to douse off. The local bank seemed to be the only building in the lane which was not touched by the rampaging mob.
An adjacent road, littered with vegetables, fruits and bricks, led to the Jat dominated area where members of the same community were during the day being requested by the local sarpanch to make peace.
“I have spoken to elders of both communities to make peace. Some mischievous elements from the village seem to have collaborated with those who had come from outside to stoke violence. Our village is quite peaceful,” said Sarpanch Rajesh Chaudhary. Another local resident, Narender, who works at a private company in Faridabad said, “There is of course the dispute but violence does not solve anything. We have lived together since Partition.”
Local legislator of Bahujan Samaj Party was also slated to visit the village to assist in the ‘peace talks’.
Land at the heart of dispute
The present situation is a result of a dispute over a plot of land owned by the Waqf board since 1972. The land was used as a graveyard for more than three decades and a makeshift shed was being used as the mosque.
After it was decided to convert the shed into a concrete single-floor building, a local ‘Pandit’ heading a ‘Village Hindu Committee’ approached sessions court following which a stay order was issued to stop any further construction. In March, however, the court decided in favour of the Waqf, resulting in minor confrontations between the two communities. However, even before the Jat community could take further legal action, the local Pandit withdrew from the Hindu committee.
“There was a criminal case against him (Pandit) which was taken back after he agreed not to take further legal action. The news might have spread in the Jat community which took to violence,” said a senior police officer requesting anonymity. Commissioner of Police Subash Yadav also confirmed the same. Police are now attempting to rehabilitate the locals who refuse to go back unless assured of protection.