Today's Paper

Arson at high noon in Haryana village

1,000 residents flee for safety as houses are set on fire near Sonepat after a murder over the weekend

Devesh K. Pandey

GOHANA (HARYANA): In what appears be the fall-out of a murder this past weekend, the sympathisers of the victim allegedly torched the houses of the accused and their neighbours at Valmiki Basti in Gohana sub-division of Sonepat near Delhi on Wednesday. While no one was injured, over 35 houses were damaged in the attack, which forced over 1,000 residents to flee for their safety.

It all happened around noon when a committee of 50 people from Gadhwal village were holding a "panchayat" to decide the future course of action in the wake of the murder of a fellow-villager, Baljeet, allegedly by some residents of Valmiki Basti. The Deputy Commissioner and senior police officers were also supposed to meet the committee members later.

According to the Inspector-General of Police (Rohtak Range), V.N. Rai, even as the meeting was going on peacefully, some "miscreants" present in the gathering turned violent. They entered Valmiki Basti, poured petrol on the houses of the accused and set them afire, after which they vanished from the scene. The fire soon engulfed other houses in the locality.

"In all, 35 houses were damaged but no one was injured. The accused and their family members had already vacated their houses, while other residents managed to flee from their houses in time," said Mr. Rai.

As soon as the matter was reported to the police, senior officers rushed to the spot and promulgated orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibiting movement of four or more persons. While the police have registered a case of arson and loot under the Untouchability Act, Mr. Rai said a hunt had been launched to nab the guilty persons. Meanwhile, scared of another assault on their lives, most residents of Valmiki Basti fled from the houses. However, the police urged them to return home as there would be appropriate deployment in the area to provide them security.

The police believe that the incident is the fall-out of the murder of Baljeet by one Shiv Pal, a resident of Valmiki Basti, and his accomplices. As reported to them, Baljeet and Shiv Pal had an altercation over some issue on August 27, after which the latter returned with his accomplices and allegedly beat Baljeet to death. Though the police say they promptly arrested Shiv Pal and three other accused in the case, they were unable to assuage the sympathisers of the victim. Mr. Rai said the burning down of houses was an act of some miscreants who had come all prepared for it.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India secretary D. Raja has condemned the incident and asked the State Government to arrest those involved.

Recommended for you