A Muslim madrasa in Bassi village of Shahpur near Muzaffarnagar has acquired a new role. As one enters through its giant iron gate into the large but messy compound, one sees people - old and young, women and men - huddled together all around.
Food is being cooked for them; and a
large but tattered carpet is their bed for the approaching night.
Local Muslims are providing them food and shelter. Those displaced claim that the Uttar Pradesh government failed to cool down frayed temperatures over days, leading to bloodshed and massive displacement after September 7.
It has also failed to provide relief material, they add.
The Muslims taking refuge here were driven out of their homes in Jat-dominated villages in swift attacks after September 7. The reason: Muslims had clashed with Jats passing through Muslim-dominated villages on that day to attend a mahapanchayat to discuss the killings of two Jat youth and alleged hate speeches by participants at a Muslim gathering on August 30.
A spark - two Jat brothers killing a Muslim boy over alleged harassment of their sister, and the boy's relatives killing the brothers - allegedly caused the fire, with the UP government caught napping.
To begin with, the administration allowed three large gatherings - one of Muslims and two of Jats -- within a span of eight days despite Section 144 of the CrPC restricting crowds in place. Hate speeches were allegedly made by Muslim leaders on August 30. On September 7, Jats attending their mahapanchayat allegedly brandished lathis and even swords.
The government however swung into action only after many killings.
70-year-old Abdul Wahid came to the Bassi madrasa after drunk men threatened to kill him in Kutbi village six days back. Young labourers Khalid and Yameen who worked in brick kilns similarly fled their village Khedipatti four days back to take shelter here.
"There is no aid from the administration even now," complains M Nabi, a doctor. "People are sending relief material to mosques and madarsas for the displaced," he says.
Muslim and Hindu versions of the initial spark, however, vary.
While Jats and other Hindus say the Muslim gathering on August 30 provoked the Jats into calling for a Panchayat gathering, Muslims claim that while their gathering was without arms, Jats attended the mahapanchayat with lathis and even swords.
"The Samajwadi Party wanted to recreate a 1992-like fear in the minds of Muslims and deliberately allowed the escalation. But it is going to harm it, as Muslims feel cheated," says Abdus Sattar, a resident of Muzaffarnagar.
Many Hindus make the same claim, though in a different tone.
"The SP government has been very soft on Muslims, and allowed them to gather in violation of Section 144 to appease them," says social worker Hoti Lal Sharma.
He adds that the Sangh Parivar also tried to fish in troubled waters. Dalit activist Satish Prakash says right wing activists spread the idea that Muslim youth were out to lure Hindu girls, thus waging "Love Jihad".
Significantly, some Hindus in the town and around it buy the idea, showing the fault lines are deep even as curfew has been relaxed and life limps back to normal.
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.