LUCKNOW — Two weeks have passed since the alleged communal clash and subsequent FIR against around 200 local Muslims, but most Muslim homes in the Khaira village of Bahraich district are still locked as the inhabitants have fled fearing arrest, says a fact-finding report of the human rights group United Against Hate (UAH).
On 20th October, an alleged communal clash erupted during Durga idol immersion procession in Khaira village. Later, an FIR was lodged by one of the members of the procession against 80 named and 100-200 unknown Muslims. They were booked under six different sections of Indian Penal Code and one section of UAPA.
A six-member team of UAH, comprising activists Nadeem Khan, Khalid Saifi, Sadaf Jafar, Banojyotsna Lahiri, Sabah and former IG of Uttar Pradesh SR Darapuri visited Bahraich in Eastern UP on 5th November. The team interacted with some of the local Muslim men who were booked by police, their family members, locals and police officers in-charge to assess the ground reality.
“In our fact finding we noted the attack and subsequent state repression of Muslims in three locations around Bahraich. These are the incidents in Risiya, Ambuha and Khaira Bazar. In all these three places, communal tension was engineered around Durga Puja and even after targeted attack on the Muslims, the police instead of arresting the culprits behind the communal attacks, implicated the Muslims en masse with criminal charges. As a result of the attacks and subsequent police atrocity, hundreds of families have escaped from their villages,” said UAH in the report released at a press conference in Lucknow on Monday.
“In the Muslim inhabited part of Khaira Bazaar village of Bahraich, most Muslim families’ businesses/shops and homes remain locked even now as of November (5) when we visited. The local Masjid was also found to be locked. Some of the wives and mothers of the men accused also had their homes raided by the police,” the group said.
“In Khairabazar, on the 20th of November, a huge procession of Durga visarjan was organized under the leadership of Thakur Rajan Singh, that deliberately was routed through the Muslim locality. It stopped in front of a mosque and the started throwing colours inside the mosque. The people in the procession were armed with sticks and swords. Provocative slogans were being given and the idea was to start a riot. The Muslims showed restraint and let the procession pass. But after going till the main road, the people in the procession returned and this time more aggressively. Slight confrontation ensued with people throwing stones from both sides. A hotel owned by a Muslim man was looted by the mob, a few vehicles that were parked in front of the mosque were vandalised. The presence of police, unlike previous years, was minimal….” said UAH in its report.
According to the FIR lodged at the Baundi police station, on the written complaint of one Ashish Kumar Shukla, those 80 Muslims along with 100-200 others were hiding on the way of the procession and when it was passing through the Khaira village on way to Badnapur for immersion, they attacked it. The complainant claimed in the FIR that the attackers were armed with guns, pistols, bombs and swords. He named three persons and 50-60 unknown persons from the procession who he said were seriously injured in the attack. They were booked under six different sections of Indian Penal Code and one section of UAPA.
During the fact-finding visit, UAH team also met the Police Superintendent of Bahraich district and raised the issue of UAPA in the FIR.
“On speaking to Gaurav Grover, the Superintendent of Police of Bahraich, the SP who was newly transferred on the 27th (October) said that the police prior to him had “erroneously” attributed serious charges like UAPA. He said it was a typing error and the intention of the police was not to include UAPA. However, a probe has been ordered and the SHO has been suspended,” UAH said in a press statement.
“Although the SP was holding peace meetings and assured no one will be wrongly arrested, this incident brings to light once again the rampant atrocity and abuse of power by UP police, particularly targeting the Muslim community,” the UAH said.