Muzaffarnagar was never the quietest place on earth. But through the years of shootings and gang wars and minor communal tension, its rural residents never had to pack their bags and leave – like they are doing now.
The sudden bloodshed over the last three days, which has claimed 31 lives, has led to an exodus. Panic-stricken Muslims are on the run, taking shelter in madrasas, mosques or relatives’ homes in nearby villages.
“We have received an influx of over 5,000 people. Eight madarsas and every available home have been turned into shelters,” said Abdul Gaffar, former pradhan of village Jaula.
“We have lost everything and the attackers who are in majority in the village, have occupied our houses,” said one of the victims.
Rehana Khatoon of village Soram Goela, Saja from village Laakh, Vakeela from village Jhaal and schoolchildren from village Ambarpur had tales of horror to share. After repeated threats, they left their villages with their families.
“We have rescued many families whose homes were either set on fire or damaged, and they were not allowed to escape. We rescued members of at least 10 families before advancing in our route,” said a senior army officer deputed in the area.
The situation was no better in the villages of Kutba, Kutbi, Laak, Hasoli, Bhaurankala and Barawadi where clashes broke out on Sunday.
“It was indeed a horrifying sight, the likes of which we did not come across even in war time,” the officer added.