Members of the Muslim community in Bisada allege that the violence after the lynching of 58-year old Mohammad Ikhlaq over rumours of eating beef was staged to polarise voters in upcoming local polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Though the villages around NTPC’s Dadri plant, located barely few kilometres from Bisada village, are not going in for panchayat elections, they are still politically charged.
The Tatarpur crossing outside the NTPC plant, where large-scale violence was witnessed on Tuesday morning after the Bisada incident, falls in the Hindu-dominated belt of Satha comprising 60 villages. It is located in Gautam Budh Nagar, which is the only district in Uttar Pradesh where panchayat elections are not happening as these villages are under the Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway authorities.
But political activity in neighbouring Hapur district, where election campaigning is in full swing, seems to have gripped Gautam Budh Nagar too.
“The mob was from the Hindu community and was galvanising support at the Tatarpur crossing on Tuesday. They were trying to pressure the administration to release the men who were picked up after the lynching. The mob stopped plant workers and told them about the ‘injustice’,” said Salim, a car-mechanic near the plant.
“We know that local politicians were behind all this during the elections in nearby villages. Tuesday morning, we started getting calls from our community members to move out of the area. When violence started, we pulled down the shutters and fled,” he said.
After vandalising police vehicles and setting a police bike on fire, the mob marched towards Masjid NTPC Vidyut Nagar, barely 100 metres from the spot.
“They were nearly 200-250 people. Majority of them were youngsters. They tried to attack the mosque complex three times. During the last attempt, they vandalised the board outside and broke open the main gate of the complex. But they did not damage the main prayer area. Gunshots were heard outside. Later, I found an empty cartridge outside the main gate,” said maulana Farman Alahi, the caretaker.
“All schools in the area have been shut. There is a sense of fear in our community after the lynching and incident of violence,” the maulana added.
Gautam Budh Nagar senior SSP Kiran S, however, denied knowledge about the vandalism at the mosque. “I am unaware of the incident at the mosque and we will verify it,”he said.
No conspiracy: Mahesh Sharma
Local MP and union minister Mahesh Sharma however denied that the incident was an attempt to polarise society ahead of panchayat polls.
“This incident was like action and reaction and not because of any organised plan. Misunderstanding was the main reason. I don’t think it was done in a planned way,” Sharma said.
Meanwhile the priest of the local temple, from where the call was allegedly made to raid Ikhlaq’s house, said he acted at the behest of two young men.
Police said that Swami Pramananand confessed he was told by the young men that they saw Ikhlaq dump the remains of a calf near a garbage heap.
The call went out from the temple around 9 pm , following which the villagers gathered outside the victim’s house, police said.
‘Hate building up over last two years’
Local authorities are trying to restore faith among Muslim families and asking them not to move out of the area.
“We have been telling the Muslim families not to leave the place as it is not a solution.. We have formed peace committees to restore harmony in the area,” he said.
But Ikhlaq’s family said the sense of hatred started building up over the last two years.
“He would often be teased by the young men in the village. They would call him Pakistani. But he never reacted as he took it as adolescent mischief,” daughter Mehraaj said.