Sonbhadra: When the entire nation was symbolically burning evil on the night of Holika Dahan, Kamrun Begum never thought something evil was going to take place right in her backyard. The 48-year-old woman saw some people converging at Imam Chowk near her house and sent her husband Mohammed Anwar to find out what was happening at the chowk.
On the night of 20 March, Mohammed Anwar, 50, was attacked and killed by a group of over 20 people in Parsoi village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh.
Hailing from Ghazipur, 25-year-old Hasnain Anwar Seikh, said that his father was strolling in the village after having dinner when he saw around 20 men gathered near Imam Chowk on the night of Holika Dahan. "My mother told my father that something was happening at Imam Chowk and asked him to go there and check as it was not the place where Holika is burned. My father went there and someone attacked him with an axe from behind. They gagged him and started beating him up. We were helpless as no one from the village came to rescue him. We called the police helpline and with the help of police, we took him to the hospital, but by then, it was too late. My father was declared dead on arrival," the mourning son said.
According to the police, Mohammad Anwar was killed because he opposed the demolition of Imam Chowk, which was allegedly illegally constructed by the Muslim community. The Muslims had kept their Taziya, a holy structure, in Imam Chowk. The deceased was looking after the farms and is survived by seven sons, one daughter and his wife. All his sons are settled and have small businesses of their own.
Cops say it’s murder, not lynching
"Anwar Ali was attacked with a sharp-edged weapon when he tried to stop a few men from the other community trying to demolish the Imam Chowk. The local police reached the spot and the victim was immediately taken to the hospital, where he was declared brought dead," said Sonbhadra Superintendent of Police Salmantaj Jafertaj Patil.
As a few people from the Hindu community were opposing the construction at Imam Chowk, disputes in the two communities took place thrice in the last six months. However, according to SP Patil, both the parties were called for mediation and the dispute was resolved after holding discussions.
"The police and the administration was successful in sorting out the case in the previous attempts but this time, the unfortunate incident happened. Additional police personnel and PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) have been deployed in the village to maintain law and order situation," Patil said.
The SP also stressed on the point that this case is of a murder and it should not be portrayed as a lynching incident.
The police has lodged an FIR against 19 people and two unnamed persons for rioting, unlawful assembly and murder under Sections 147, 148, 149, 295, 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). While 13 people have already been taken into custody, the police have launched a manhunt to nab the rest.
Living under fear
After the incident, the Muslim community — which has only three families in the village — is living under fear. Such is the extent of fear that Anwar’s family has now shifted to Obra market in Sonbhadra from the village.
"There are only three Muslim households in the village and our family is afraid that something can happen to us. Not even a single person from the village turned up to help and it is only because of a single person,” said Hasnain.
He also blamed a government teacher for disturbing communal harmony in the village and accused him of trying to instigate Hindus against Muslims.
“Ravindra Kharwar (one of the accused named in the FIR and currently under police custody) is a teacher in the local government high school and has been trying to incite communal tension in the village ever since he was transferred to this village. We really don’t know what problem he has with the Muslim community," Hasnain added.
Naeem Ghazipuri, 60, the elder brother of the deceased, said that the communal harmony of the village has been intact for the last 17 years but since the arrival of Kharwar, communal tension flared up.
"A few months ago, another Muslim man was attacked and he has been bedridden since. There was no religious divide in the village and we were living peacefully here for many years. It seems that my brother was targeted because he had just returned from Ajmer a day ago," he says.
The village headman was not available for comment.
‘Forget minorities, even MLAs are not safe’
Ameeque Jamei, the national spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party, the main party in Opposition in Uttar Pradesh, said that the condition of law and order in the state has been deteriorating. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, on the occasion of completion of two years of his government, claimed that the law and order situation in the state has become an example for other states.
“Even the lawmakers of the ruling party are not safe. An MLA of the ruling BJP party was shot at on Holi in Lakhimpur Kheri. In such kind of environment, how will the minorities feel safe, and that too when they have been facing hate crime incidents?” he said, condemning the incident and demanding stern action against the accused.
With inputs from Sunil Kumar Tiwari
(Author is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and member of 101Reporters.com.)
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