Panic ruled the Muslim areas in Napaniya and Khalaspur villages in Gujarat’s Panchmahals district for over 10 days. On June 8, a married Muslim man eloped with a tribal girl and with the memories of 2002 riots still fresh, the community lived in fear of reprisal.
Hanif Khatki and the girl, Suman Baria, were neighbours in Khalaspur village.
On June 13, after a rumour surfaced that the tribals would attack the Muslims, 175 families from the two adjoining villages chose to flee and take refuge with friends and relatives elsewhere.
The media reported the incident two days ago and the local administration tried to persuade them to return.
The couple was traced and Baria was handed over to her family on June 18. By Tuesday night, around 90% of the villagers had returned, police said.
“Around 1,000 people had fled to the homes of their relatives,” Abdul Quereshi, a resident of Napaniya said. Quereshi, along with his family, had taken refuge with a relative in Godhra town for four days.
“Now, we have handed over the girl to her family so communal peace can be maintained in the two villages,” he said. “We admitted that Hanif had made a mistake by eloping with a Hindu girl.” The people, he said, did not want to take a chance after what they saw during the communal riots in 2002.
Panchmahals superintendent of police Sachin Badshah, who visited both villages on Tuesday, said the situation was normal.
“The families are back in their homes and three armed guards have been posted in each village,” he said.