Communal tension rocks Atali

More than 70 Muslims have fled the village fearing fresh violence

July 03, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 08:07 am IST - ATALI (FARIDABAD):

More than a thousand police personnel have been stationed in the village for more than a month now. Photo: Manoj Kumar

More than a thousand police personnel have been stationed in the village for more than a month now. Photo: Manoj Kumar

A day after eight people were injured in clashes that broke out between members of two communities at Atali village, more than 70 Muslims fled the village on Thursday. Earlier, on May 25, several people had been injured and scores of houses and vehicles were set afire when a Hindu mob had allegedly attacked the Muslim families following a dispute over the construction of a mosque in the village.

Accusing the administration of having failed to ensure their safety, Zahid, a Muslim youth, said: “When our families could be attacked in the presence of senior police officers and civil administration officials — as it happened on Wednesday — how can we consider ourselves safe in the village?”

Though the exodus of the Muslim families had begun soon after the May 25 attack, it was mostly women and children who had then left the villages to go and stay with their relatives. “Now, after this fresh spell of violence, even the heads of the families staying behind have left. The exodus is almost complete, with just two families choosing to stay behind,” said 31-year-old Zahid, who teaches at the Education Department in Al-falah University.

Things turned from bad to worse after the May 25 attack with the Hindus ostracising us, said Ahsaan, another Muslim youth. “Our children were not allowed to board the auto-rickshaws and the shopkeepers refused to sell us even items of daily need. The majority community members had announced to impose the fine on anyone defying their directions on ostracisation. We were then left with no option, but to leave the place,” said Ahsaan, who has taken shelter at Madrasa Afzalul Uloom Islamia Arabia in Ballabgarh.

Senior police officers, however, tried to downplay the exodus. “They left fearing for their lives. But we are trying to instil confidence in them,” said Commissioner of Police (Faridabad) Subhash Yadav.

Zahid demanded that all those involved in the attack should be booked and arrested. Though 18 First Information Reports were lodged after the May 25 attack and three more were lodged on Wednesday, no arrests have been made so far.

“The culprits are not identified as well as they are on the run. It is a mix of both,” said Yadav, when asked about the delay in arrests.

Even as more than a thousand police personnel, including the Rapid Action Force team, are stationed in the village for the past over a month, uneasy calm prevails with members of both communities leaving in constant fear.

“We are too scared to step out of our homes and go even up to Ballabgarh. Who knows? The men from the rival community might attack us,” said a Hindu youth. Over 40 shops in the village also remain closed since the May 25 attack affecting the livelihood of many.

“Only a couple of shops catering to daily needs open occasionally. The shopkeepers have lost their livelihood,” said Ankit, a carpenter, who now works from home.

The members of both communities, however, agree that the dispute was over the construction of the mosque.

“The two communities had been living in harmony for several decades, the trouble began with the dispute over the construction of the mosque,” said Mahavir.

While the Hindus oppose the construction of the mosque in the middle of the village, adjoining the temple, saying that the said land belonged to the panchayat, Muslims contended that it was the property of the WAKF Board.

Some Hindu youth also blamed the upcoming panchayat elections for vitiating the atmosphere.

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