Muzaffarnagar: Even as normal life returns to Muzaffarnagar district, the hardship has just begun for 25000 odd Muslim refugees forced out of their homes, now huddled in masjids, homes of relatives, and on streets in Muslim neighborhoods.
When the curfew was lifted for a longer stretch of time on Thursday, the hunt began for missing family members. About 35 persons have thus far been reported missing, but that number is likely to rise, as the police wait the stipulated 48 hours before registering missing person cases.
Shaukat Saifi is sitting outside the Shahpur police station, about 20 km from Muzaffarnagar city. He is a labourer and managed to survive a mob attack along with 15 members of his family. "But eight persons were killed in my village Kutba,’’ he says, narrating the story of his escape.
"The village was tense on September 6, when the panchayat was held at Shiv Mandir over the eve-teasing incident. Next day was the Mahapanchayat of Jats about 40 km away from our village," he recalls, "At 9 am on September 8, our fears came true. I heard a huge thumping sound at my door. I immediately called up Shahpur SO and then Muzaffarnagar police. I was told that the police force is on its way."
"Suddenly, I realised that the shouts have become louder outside my house and the mob was now trying break into my house. My family members and I rushed to the rooftop and jumped to the neigbhour’s roof. Even his house was under attack and we then jumped into another roof and hid wherever we could – toilet, bathroom, kitchen, almirah…,’’ Shaukat says.
The ordeal lasted two hours until the Rapid Action Force (RAF) police arrived at the village at 11 am. The police rescued them, taking them first to the police station and then shifted to Shahpur Masjid. Shaukat's house was ransacked and the door was broken. He lost all his cattle – five buffaloes and eight goats.
Shuakat’s neighbor Abdullah says that the Pradhan of the village is a lady, but it is her husband, Devender, who calls all the shots.
"Devender had promised us security and that’s why we stayed back on September 7 (despite fears sparked by the panchayat). In fact, three relatives of ours went to Pradhan’s house early morning of September 8. But they were help captives there and not allowed to leave,’’ Abdullah says.
The Pradhan was not available in the village for comments. Abdullah’s brother Aas Mohammad was seriously injured and was brought to the police station in semi-conscious condition on September 12.
Shakil, who took shelter in Shahpur Masjid, is at the Shahpur police station, looking for his 24-year-old son Shabbeer, along with Zahid who is searching for his 32-year old friend Shaukin.
"I along with Shaukin were riding on a motorbike, driving back home to Bilaspur. I had to slow it down near Rasoolpur village due to bad road, when a boy hiding in a sugarcane field suddenly appeared and put a rod into spoke of my bike’s wheel," Zahid recalls, "I lost the balance and both Shaukin and I fell down. About 15-20 boys hiding behind a tube-well in sugarcane fields were standing over us even before we could get up. All I remember is that they were all over us and beat us up with sticks."
Zahid managed to break free and ran towards the sugarcane field. "As the luck had it, most of the guys ran after me. I had begun to hear things from the distant. Somebody was calling two guys who stayed behind to beat me up. I got one last kick in the stomach and then everybody went away."
Zahid, however, has not seen or heard from Shaukin since then. The police has promised to search for Shaukin and Shabeer but they will have to wait for the required 48 hours before the cases are registered.
New DIG Ashok Jain, who has been patrolling the most affected villages of Kutba and Kutbi, tells Firstpost that the list of missing persons is being tabulated. There are about 30 police stations and police chowkis, which have reported cases of communal riots in their areas. And on average, each police station has so far registered one or two cases, he says. Hence his rough estimate that the missing count is around 35.
Muzaffarnagar District hospital has listed 49 deaths, of which nine are unidentified, including the body of a 10-year-old child. Four of the unidentified bodies are from Fugana village alone.
"The official death count is still 38-40, because [we] suspect that other deaths are due to local crime," he claims.
Jain also dispels widespread rumours that many more people were killed during riot and their bodies hidden in dense sugarcane fields. "I don’t think this is true, since the number of missing persons is not very high. Let us wait till we get the list of missing persons tabulated,’’ Jain says.
The curfew relaxation on Thursday has also drawn women to the station. Sahil has brought three women and a child in a thela. They all are from village Soram. They were attacked and their houses burnt.
The Shahpur Masjid has reached capacity and is now beginning to overflow with refugees. About a kilometer away, in a local colony called Islamabad, many displaced Muslims are huddled in houses or simply sitting in the street. There is a makeshift dispensary run by Dr Noor Ali and Dr Zubair Ahmed, who run a private hospital in Shahpur. They have organised this `makeshift’ dispensary at their own expense. "In two days, we have treated about 230 patients, including 50 children and a few pregnant women. Three persons, who had serious injuries, were reported to the district hospital," Dr Noor Ali told Firstpost. Food, clothes, medicine and shelter – all have been arranged by the community. The government is barely present in Shahpur.
But as this reporter was talking to Dr Noor Ali, former SP MP Aamir Alam Khan arrived at Islamabad. As Muslim refugees thronged around him, Aamir Alam Khan told them, "I have strongly written against the ineffectiveness of the local administration. I did a press conference today. The SP government will give you government land and will construct your houses. You don’t have to worry at all."
These are big promises. Then a voice from the crowd makes a more modest demand: "Bus aap ees Shahpur SO (Station Officer) ko barkhast kara dijiye.’’ (Just have the Shahpur Police Station’s SO fired). Somebody from Khan’s entourage asks for Shahpur SO’s name. Nobody seems to know it. Alam Khan continues with his list of promises.
Muslim refugees are concentrated in 7 areas: 10,000 at Kandhola village (in Madrasa), 5000 in Budhana Qasaba, and the rest in Jola, Loi, Shahpur, Tawli and Bangeru. The worst riot-hit villages are Kutba, Kutbi, Lisadh, Bhaju, Bhawahi, Khararh, Khuwana, Kakra, Hadoli, Mohmadpur Rai Singh, Kheda Mastan.
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Updated Date: Sep 13, 2013 11:37:39 IST