Violence erupted on Saturday in a Greater Noida village where a Muslim man was lynched over allegations of cow slaughter, with angry mobs thrashing journalists and political workers, alleging bias against the accused.
Amid the tension, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal arrived in Bisada village to visit the house of the deceased, 55-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq, only to face the ire of local residents.
Their visits within hours of each other shattered the uneasy calm in the area as hundreds of irate women defied the heavy police presence, beating up journalists and vandalising vehicles.
“The villagers said they are disturbed with the continuous presence of media and VIPs. They said they want some peace for a normal life,” said Sanjay Singh, superintendent of police, rural, Gautam Budh Nagar.
The police, meanwhile, arrested two more people in the case, bringing the total number of arrests to eight. One of the two, 18-year-old Vishal Rana, is the son of a local BJP worker, Sanjay Rana.
Kejriwal, who reached the village with a bevy of Aam Aadmi Party leaders, was forced to wait for about four hours as police tried to control a rampaging mob, comprising women and children supporting the accused. “If somebody thinks Hindu religion is in danger and that is why Muslims are being targeted, then he can’t be a Hindu,” he said later.
The small village has come under intense media focus after a mob of about 200 broke into Ikhlaq’s home late Monday, accusing them of butchering a calf and consuming beef, and beat him to death, leaving his 21-year-old son critically injured.
Anger has mounted in the village over the alleged bias shown by media and a section of leaders towards the victim and a perception created that the accused were being unfairly dealt with.
“Was touched by the desire of people in Bisada to maintain harmony. This spirit will help the country go through tough times,” @OfficeofRG tweeted later.
Under attack, the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party appeared to be firefighting as chief minister Akhilesh Yadav doubled the compensation given to the family to R20 lakh.
Ashu Malik, a party MLC from Ghaziabad, also whisked away four family members to IGI airport for a late-night flight to Lucknow, where they are slated to meet Akhilesh on Sunday.
The incident shocked the nation but bitter political wrangling has taken centre-stage since then, with culture minister Mahesh Sharma describing it as an accident and local BJP leaders calling for a mahapanchayat, bringing back memories of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that left 62 dead and millions displaced.
Saturday’s ruckus started at around 9am, when many women rushed out of their houses, children in tow, and started hurling abuses at OB vans. They warned reporters to leave their village or face dire consequences. When journalists started fleeing, the mob caught hold of some of them and thrashed them.