Muslims businesses targeted in aftermath of protests

Umardaraz, brother of the deceased Noor Mohammad   | Photo Credit: Anuj Kumar

The wailing of women is heard from a distance. The lane can hardly accommodate more than three men walking alongside. As one steps closer the smell of cooking fills the air in front of Noor Mohammed’s dilapidated house in what is ironically called Nayi Abadi in Muzaffarnagar’s Muslim-dominated Khalapar area.

Guests have come to mourn the death of Noor who died of a gun shot injury on December 20, when the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act turned violent, leaving one dead and several injured.

They could not see Noor for he was buried at Daurala on Saturday evening, a town between Muzaffarnagar and Meerut – where Noor was referred to after the grievous injury.

According to Noor’s elder brother Umardaraz, the police thought if the body was brought to Muzaffarnagar, it would create a law and order situation.

Nobody exactly knows where the bullet came from.

Umardaraz, who was part of the protest, says gunshots were fired after the local MP and Union Minister Sanjeev Baliyan emerged on the scene with his supporters at the Mahavir Chowk, which protesters coming from Meenakshi Chowk had to pass to reach the Collectorate. “He pushed the police to take action against the peaceful protesters,” Umardaraz, like many others around him, alleges. There is seething anger. “We want to fight back but we know it is a lost battle. Only God is with us now,” says Umardaraz. Mr. Baliyan could not be reached for comment.

The youngest of three brothers, Noor used to earn ₹400 to 500 per day by driving private vehicles. “He has left behind a one-and-half-year-old daughter, and a wife who is six months’ pregnant. Who will fight his case?” asks Umardaraz who works as a cook at weddings. “We haven’t lodged any complaint. There is pressure from the police not to talk about the case,” he says.

A kilometre away, in Gulerwali Gali, the family of Haji Anwar Elahi is still reeling under shock. On Friday night, around a 100 policemen, in uniform and plainclothes, allegedly entered Mr. Elahi’s three-storied house and ransacked it. “They were asking for my sons, particularly the youngest. When they could not find them, they detained me,” said Mr. Elahi. “None of them was part of the protest,” he says.

Released on Sunday morning, the 74-year-old, who is a heart patient and partially disabled because of polio, says the police smashed the family car and ransacked furniture in all the rooms. “Even the religious books were not spared. Later, we discovered that the jewellery and money that we had collected for our daughter’s wedding was also missing.”

Once again, Mr. Elahi, who is a wholesaler in shoes, doesn’t have the courage to lodge a complaint with the police. “I fear for my sons,” he says. His wife Fakhra says the policemen were asking them to vacate the place with dire threats. “They were saying the place belonged to them,” she alleges.

In the adjoining market, Asif Khan who runs a mobile shop is standing behind a shattered glass counter. “A ‘Hindu’ mob did it after the protests and walked away with the mobiles. We have given a complaint to the police but no action has been taken. An attempt was made to set the adjoining flower shop on fire. In between the two, is the gate of the local mosque, which locals allege was the target but was somehow prevented when the police intervened.”

Salman Sayeed, Congress leader, whose four cars were also allegedly burnt down by the same mob, said the administration is “one-sided.” “The aim is to ruin the Muslims financially,” he says, pointing at the arbitrary sealing of shops owned by Muslims, who allegedly participated in the protest.

A local lawyer requesting anonymity says the local MP was trying to communalise what was essentially an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest. “The counter could be pro-(Citizenship) Act protest. Why to make it anti-Muslim and target their business,” he says. “It seems like completing the unfinished agenda of the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.” According to official sources, FIRs have been registered against 258 named and 6000 unnamed persons. Around 57 shops have been sealed by the district administration.

Abhishek Yadav, SSP, Muzaffarnagar denies all the charges. “These are all allegations. There is nothing arbitrary in our action. We are not working under anybody’s pressure. We were up against a huge mob. We have photographic and video evidence against people who have been charged. Those who were detained on suspicion are being released. We are still investigating what led to Noor’s death. If anybody comes up with a complaint, we will surely register an FIR,” he says.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 6:04:44 PM |

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