Angry over alleged persecution of men in the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar riots, women of several villages of the region have warned the police that they would first have to arrest them along with their cattle if they came after their men folk.
The warning came during several all-women panchayats that took place in villages of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.
Communal violence and subsequent police action in the region has resulted in a fear psychosis among villagers, forcing several men in villages like Phugana, Bahavadi, Kutba and Kutabi (Muzaffarnagar) and Lisaad and Laank (Shamli) to flee their homes for the fear of being falsely implicated in police cases.
To discuss the issue, women of these villages, with ‘lathis’ in their hands, held simultaneous panchayats where they urged the police and administration to not harass innocent men.
“All the youths named in the FIR were studying in other districts during the time and had nothing to do with riots,” said a woman present at one of the panchayats.
Notably, in most of the violence-affected villages, a number of police cases have been registered against men between 17 and 50 years of age for direct or indirect involvement in the riots.
Most of the prominent persons like village chaudharis, too, have been named in the FIRs.
“With our men away, we have to take care of the agricultural fields as well as the household, not to mention the cattle. This is just not fair and has turned us against the ruling government,” said another woman.
Interestingly, the women had barred Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders and police personnel from participating in the panchayat.
The women also urged the district administration to take quick action against people found in possession of illegal arms during the search operation by army and the police.
Kutba women, including Manju, Harbeeri, Shweta, Suman, Rekha and Phula, expressed strong determination to oppose the arrest of innocent persons.
The district administration, on its part, said the women’s fears were unfounded. District magistrate of Muzaffarnagar Kaushal Raj told Hindustan Times, “No person, if he is innocent, needs to be worried about inclusion of his name in the FIR as police action would be taken only after proper investigation and only the culprits would be punished.”