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Maharashtra:

Revisiting the Gujarat

By Aleem Faizee

 

Khandesh and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra have witnessed a series of communal violence in last few months. Ummid.com reports as the town after town in Maharashtra falls to the miscreant elements.

 

 
 
 
 
 

Azam Tailor over the debris of his looted

shop in Chopda

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sabira Bi's daughter in law in her

charred house at Bhiradi

An uneasy calm greeted us as we entered Bhiradi village in Sillud Taluka on April 22, 2008, just few days after the township had undergone through the Gujarat like trauma. The village in Aurangabad district is located at a distance of 70 kilometers from the district headquarter and has a population of just over ten thousand people, 30% of whom are belonging to the minority community. The reason that the State Minority Commission Chairman, Naseem Siddiqui is there in the village with his deputy Abraham Mathai miserably failed in building the needed confidence among the people.

 

Police firing kills two in Chopda

On April 22, 2008 at around 10:00 in the evening Shaikh Jumma of Fakirwadi had an argument with Shriram Patil of Lohia Nagar on reasons still not clear to the people. Fakirwadi and Lohia Nagar are two closely-adjacent areas in Chopda, a Taluka in Jalgaon district with a population of around one lakh. The town was reportedly tense since last few days because the controversial song Kasam Ram ki khate hai. Mandir wahi banaege was played on DJ sound in a wedding ceremony.

 

According to the residents the two were dispersed after the scuffle. But soon after Shriram came with few of his friends and started attacking the shops belonging to the minority community in Fakirwadi. The stone pelting was so intense that Jahangir Shah lost one of  his eyes in the attack. A tailor shop owned by Azam Shah was set ablaze because of which few shops adjacent to it that belonged to the majority community also caught the fire.

 

The town had just few police personnel who were helplessly watching the shops being put on the fire. The police tried hard to pacify the violent mob, IG Police S. P. Gupta says, but some of them assaulted the police personnel instead and even poured kerosene on one of them. This prompted the police to open the fire on the advancing mob killing Sanjay Laxman Choudhary (30) and Deepak Mahajan (20). Residents in Fakirwadi say the mob was so aggressive that had the police not opened the fire, they would have set the whole area on fire.

The town, people argue, consists of by and large peace loving people but it became infamous when in a similar incidence in 1955 a police inspector was killed after he was put on fire by the vicious mob.

 

The town is back to normal but for the indiscriminate arrests by the police after the looting and arson, Muslims in the town are still feeling the heat. Police has detained some 32 people including 14-year old Shaikh Jameel. According to the residents most of those arrested are innocents and have nothing to do with the riots. Tameez Bi, whose grandson Jahangir lost one of the eyes in the attack, says that they were inside their house when police came and arrested all the male members. Shameem Bi alleges police broke the doors and arrested her mentally-ill son from the house. IG police S. P. Gupta denies the charges and says they found twenty five of those arrested gathered at one place. Ironically while Shaikh Jumma is under police custody, Shriram whose scuffle with Shaikh Jumma started the violence is still at large.

In contrast, shock waves generated throughout the minority community members, who were anxiously waiting at the corridors where a meeting had been organized by the officials after the whirlwind tour of the riot affected areas, as the State Minority Commission Chairman turned down their repeated pleas for the in person hearing to look into their accounts of what had actually happened on the fateful Friday.

 

Trouble Begins

Bhiradi village has a history of people living in total harmony since last fifty years and doesn’t have any history of communal flare on its soil. However on Friday April 18, trouble began when some miscreant elements danced in front of the mosque on the tunes of “Kasam Ram ki khate hai. Mandir wahi banaege” while the Friday prayer was still underway. Adjacent to the mosque is located Maruti Mandir, where people regularly come to seek the blessings from the deity.

 

People praying in the mosque, according to the residents, tried to reason with the furiously dancing lot and requested them to slow down the DJ sound. They obliged, people said, but only to return a little after with a renowned vigor. The act reportedly infuriated the people belonging to the minority community. Stone pelting started from both the sides and the situation soon got transformed into a communal flare.

 

Rumormongers took control of the whole village. And what happened in next few hours in Bhiradi village is seemingly suggestive of a well planned strategy to attack the people belonging to the minority community.

 

Violence spreads to other parts of the village

In just few hours after this incident, some fourteen shops and properties belonging to minority community were looted, ransacked and set ablaze by what is said as the outsiders assisted by few local residents.

 

Mumtaz Pathan, the owner of Yash Photo Studio was out for the Friday prayer. The studio was having the accessories worth 230,000 rupees that included two computers, a scanner and other regular machineries needed for a functioning photographer. The studio was looted in the full daylight and was later set ablaze by the violent mob. His studio with an apparent non-Muslim name was surrounded by the shops belonging to the majority community members in a prominent shopping centre near the bus stand. It is still not clear to Mumtaz Pathan how the outsiders singled out his studio for marauding.

 

A couple of taxis that were parked in the village as their owners were busy for the Friday prayers were also set to fire. This included Shaikh Rehman’s taxi bearing registration number MH-20 W54. At the same time a hotel belonging to Iqbal Khan was looted before the violent mob almost leveled it to the ground.

 

Gujarat Pattern in Full Swing

The most horrifying attack was carried out at Mohammad Khan’s residence. A violent mob that allegedly came on vehicles from neighboring villages bolted his house from outside and set it ablaze while the women and children were inside. “Our men were in the mosque when we saw a mob on vehicles halting at our doorsteps. They rushed towards our house shouting slogans and before we could realise anything they locked the doors from outside, started throwing cotton wet with petrol and set our house on fire”, narrated Sabera Bi in a choked voice unmindful of the tears that were rolling down her cheeks.

 

Sabera Bi was locked inside the house with her three daughters in law and their children when the violent mob attacked her house. “Confined to the burning house, we were helplessly crying for help as smoke nearly suffocated all of us.” They were later saved by the people who came for their rescue from the neighboring areas after hearing the chaos and watching the thick smoke that was continuously emanating from the blazing house.

 

The Aftermath

Ironically the village of more than ten thousand population does not have any permanent police chowky. And by the time police came and took control over the situation, the violent mob succeeded in damaging the properties worth 2.5 million rupees and had almost burned a family alive.

 

Yet the arrival of the police personnel in the village does not mean that the ordeal for the people belonging to the minority community is over. According to the local residents, police started indiscriminate arrests of their youths and did not spare even the minors. They allege that the police actions lack transparency and they are arresting innocent people. Fearing the arrest, over 70% of the youths belonging to the minority community has left the village. They include the sons and grandsons of Sabera Bi whose house was set ablaze by the rioters. “Even today morning police came here searching for my innocent children”, says Sabera Bi.

 

Bharat Kadam Superintendent of Police (Aurangabad Rural), on the other hand, denies the charges of bias. Agreeing that two minors, one each from both the communities, are in his custody, he praised his personnel for quickly controlling the situation.

 

State Minority Commission Visits Bhiradi

Against this backdrop State Minority Commission Chairman Naseem Siddiquee visited the village on April 22, 2008 with his deputy Abraham Mathai. Speaking with this reporter after the whirlwind tour of the affected areas, Naseem Siddiquee asserted that the violence were not at all spontaneous. “The series of the riots that are taking place in Maharashtra are pre-planned and are being deliberately organized by the communal forces for narrow political gains keeping the upcoming elections into their minds”, he said while linking the Bhiradi violence with the riots that took place one after the other in recent months at Khamgaon, Jalna, Raver and other areas of Khandesh and Marathwada regions in Maharashtra.

 

He was vocal of the prevailing fear that loomed large over the minority community members in Bhiradi. Agreeing that the people in Bhiradi are still living under fear Siddiquee said, “I have already spoken with the local authorities about this and have requested them to work so as to allay the fears that exist into people’s mind.”

 

When asked why the Government of Maharashtra is hesitant in banning the infamous CDs containing the controversial song, Siddiquee said that he had already written to the Chief Minister and Dy. Chief Minister in this regard and added, “I am hopeful a decision will come very soon.”

 

Ironically, while Naseem Siddiquee was heading towards Aurangabad airport for taking a flight back home, a large number of CDs with the controversial song were freely distributed in the Aurangabad. And by the time he reached Mumbai late in the evening on April 22, another riot broke at nearby Chopda, a town in Jalgaon district with little less than 100,000 people. The reason? People there were reportedly dancing on the tunes of Mandir Wahi Banaege when a spat between the two communities began that soon transformed into a communal flare.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sare Jahan Se Accha

Hindustan Hamara

In 1905 more than 100 years from today, when Iqbal was a lecturer at the Government College, Lahore he was invited by his student Lala Hardayal to preside over a function. Instead of making a speech, Iqbal sang Sare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara in his style. Iqbal compiled this poem in praise of India and the poem preaches the communal harmony that had unfortunately started ceasing in India by that time. Each and every word in this poem depicts an Indian’s respect and love for the motherland and the values the Indian society inherited for long...Read Full

 

 

 
 
 

 
 

 

 

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