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Meerut’s Ahmed Nagar mourns its dead

Still tense: A Muslim woman walks past policemen in riot gear on a street in Meerut.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The road to Ahmed Nagar, a Muslim locality in Meerut, is like a ride to a dystopian future. Adjacent to a choked drain that’s as wide as the road, the locality perched next to the Kanch Ka Pul (bridge of glass) is a warren of narrow lanes, where, for a first time visitor, the stench of human faeces overpowers the fragrance of freshly prepared haleem.

Ahmed Nagar lost two of its young men, Aleem (24) and Asif (20) on December 20, when the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act turned violent in Meerut, resulting in the death of six persons from gunshot injuries.

“We are living a third class life and have made peace with it,” said Mohammed Salahuddin, the elder brother of Aleem, who used to make sheermal at a shop in the Kotwali area. “What more the government wants to take away from us,” he wondered.

“Now, a video is circulating on mobiles, where the SP is telling Muslim boys to go to Pakistan. It is wrong to say something like this, but if it was shot before the protest, wasn’t it a provocation,” he asked. “Kya kaali patti bandhna bhi galat hai (is wearing a black armband too wrong)?”

Family’s breadwinner

Partially disabled because of polio, Mr. Salahuddin said the family got to know about Aleem’s death when a neighbour showed them a video of his brother lying near the City Hospital, a little more than a kilometre away from the shop he worked in, with a bullet wound on his temple. “It was around 4.30 p.m. We rushed to the government hospital but we were shown the body of Asif, who lived in the nearby lane,” said Mr. Salahuddin. Asked to return the next morning, it was only after the intervention of the local Samajwadi Party MLA, that they got to see the body. “By that time, the post mortem was done. It has been more than a week and we are yet to get the post mortem report.”

Very good at his job, Aleem’s mentor Raees said he would earn up to ₹13,000 a month and was devoted to his work. “As I am disabled and our younger brothers are still learning, Aleem was the main breadwinner,” said Mr. Salahuddin.

In lane No. 10, Asif’s family was yet to come to terms with his death. “He used to run a battery-operated auto and was fatally shot on the chest on Hapur Road,” said his father Id Ul Hasan.“I lived for 4-5 years in Delhi and got the Aadhar card of the family members there. Now, the police are claiming that Asif brought outsiders from Delhi for violent protests in the city. This is false,” he said.

The fear is palpable. “The policemen come in the dead of night to pick up young men. For the last three nights, we sit outside our houses in shifts, light bonfires to keep a check,” said Arif, Asif’s brother, pointing to the mounds of ashes lining the narrow lane.

Locals said the police were passing the buck on outsiders by arresting two alleged members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) to cover its own mismanagement of the situation. “Instead of requesting the religious leaders of Muslims to pacify the crowds, like they did on December 27, senior officials were seen with the BJP leaders on December 20, which further agitated the protesters,” said a local reporter, requesting anonymity.

Old-timers said the place was named thus as the area was once a hub of the glass business. The 1987 communal riots changed things. “The riots changed our lives forever,” said Hamid, the 84-year-old father of Aleem. “Many business families could not recover. I pray this doesn’t turn into another upheaval,” he added. “In my village, Saidpur, Hindus and Muslims attend each other’s weddings. My son Salahuddin could walk because a Hindu businessman funded his operation. It is only justice that we seek,” he said, with tears rolling down his eyes.

Though the Meerut Police has acknowledged that it fired six rounds in the air, it continues to maintain that no one died because of the police firing. While the post-mortem reports were yet to be made public, police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, asserted that as the bullets had exited the bodies, their bore could not be ascertained.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 10:28:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/meeruts-ahmed-nagar-mourns-its-dead/article30421502.ece

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