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Muslim families leave Bishahra amid tension

Villagers grieving over the body of Ravi Sisodia. Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

At the same place where Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched a year ago, thousands of residents of Bishahra village in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, sat on a dharna on Thursday, demanding the immediate release of all the 17 accused in the case.

The villagers were protesting after Ravi Sisodia, one of the 18 residents of Bishahra arrested on charges of killing Akhlaq, died of respiratory and renal failure at the LNJP hospital in Delhi on Tuesday.

Sisodia's coffin was draped with the national flag and he was hailed as a “martyr” by the villagers who alleged that he was killed by the jail staff. His family members maintained that Sisodia was “perfectly fine”, a claim contradicted by their application submitted in the court on Sisodia's behalf on September 30 that he was suffering from chikungunya and he be transferred to Gautam Buddh Nagar district hospital for better treatment.

The village continued to be extremely tense with several Hindutva groups and VHP leaders addressing the gathering of over a 1,000 people sitting on protest and demanding Rs. 1 crore compensation to Sisodia's family and a government job to his family members. The villages refused to conduct Sisodia’s last rites unless their demands were met.

VHP leaders like Sadhvi Prachi and members of cow vigilante groups who are active in the region, are present in the village.

Sadhvi Prachi, an accused in the 2013 Muaffarnagar riots, addressed the protesters and invoked the riots while daring the crowds to avenge the “martyrdom” of Sisodia.

In full police presence, Kapil Bhati, a local leader from Dadri, asked Hindus to “avenge his death”.

Fear of violence

Dawood, the priest of the local mosque, told The Hindu that though the administration provided security to Muslims and village elders also assured them of safety, minority community members left the village out of apprehension in the atmosphere of hatred whipped up by the Hindutva leaders.