The local administration was forced to call in para-military forces in Loni Monday as hundreds of protesters clashed with the police after rumours of an alleged rape victim’s death and the accused being let off spread in the UP town that borders Delhi.
By evening, calm had returned to the western Uttar Pradesh town that was virtually shut down, but it could be short-lived. An auto driver, Mohammed Jameel, was shot dead close to the spot of protests. His family has blamed the rioters, a claim denied by the police.
In recent months, western UP has been on the edge. Petty quarrels, land disputes and even criminal incidents have flared into communal riots. Loni, which borders Delhi, has a high crime rate and a history of communal discord.
On Monday, the police had to fire several rounds in the air as men, women and young children threw stones at them a day after protesting their failure to register a case of rape against a 65-year-old man for allegedly assaulting a nine-year-old girl.
The town was tense since Sunday after the news of the alleged rape of the nine-year-old spread. Locals, who wanted rape charge against Sher Mohammad, were upset with police for treating it as a case of harassment.
“Why would my nine-year-old daughter lie? We have been here since Monday morning and are not being allowed to leave,” the victim’s mother, who was at Ghaziabad women’s police station which is some 20km from Loni, said. Late Sunday, the police slapped rape charge against Sher Mohammad and arrested him.
On Monday, they were also investigating the murder of 29-year-old Jameel, whose family alleged that he was attacked by rioters as he was from the minority community. The police, however, are treating it as a separate case.
“His auto rickshaw got stuck and some unidentified people shot him dead. We are waiting for the post mortem report and will talk to the police,” Intzar Saifi, Jameel’s brother-in-law, told HT. He also said the police’s claim of Jameel’s rivalry with the auto owner was untrue.
“Jameel’s murder was the outcome of some rivalry but we are also investigating if it is related to the clashes,” said Mukul Goel, additional director general of police (law and order).