Seventy members of a Muslim joint family in Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh, where a man was lynched following rumours that he slaughtered a calf, owe their lives to their Hindu neighbours.
Amid the communal polarisation and tension on Monday, the Hindus risked their own safety and went out of their way to help Muslim men, women and children escape from Bisada minutes before a mob reached their homes.
The Hindus also ensured the safety of the houses of the Muslims that were left unattended.
In the wake of the lynching of 55-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq, who was killed by a mob on Monday night following rumours that he had slaughtered a calf at his home, the actions of the Hindus are being held up as an example for the region.
“We were warned by our Hindu neighbours about a large group of people coming towards our house. We were frightened and wanted to leave the place at the earliest as the mob had reached near the village mosque, which is a few metres away from our house,” said Abdul Muhammad, a 65-year-old resident of Bisada.
“We would not have survived if we were not helped by them,” he told Hindustan Times.
As the mob approached the homes of the Muslims on Monday night, three Hindu men – Vineet Kumar, Umesh Kumar and Ashok – planned a dramatic escape for the joint family.
Ashok helped women, children and the elderly cross a knee-deep pond at 2 am to reach a nearby road, while Vineet and Umesh drove their utility vehicle to the road through a narrow alley that is not used by the villagers.
“They escaped secretively from the village. Since there were almost 70 family members, we had to make three rounds from the village to Dadri. It took us more than two hours to ensure that all of them reached safely,” said Vineet, a 35-year-old farmer who is studying law.
The Hindus learnt about the impending attack by the mob when Umesh was returning home from work at 11 pm on Monday. The Muslims, gripped by fear, left most of their belongings behind as they fled. Some males returned after two days when Ashok informed them the situation is Bisada was under control and promised to safeguard them.
“We always felt so safe in the village and suddenly our trust was broken. More than our lives, we were worried about the dignity of our women. Most of the women still have not returned to their houses,” said 60-year-old Rayisan Bano.
The Muslims went off in different directions after reaching Dadri. Some of them went to Dasna, Faridabad and Ghaziabad, while others travelled to Sikandrabad and Delhi.
The horrific memories of the flight are still fresh in their minds.
“I am heartbroken. I do not want to live here anymore. We have seen eight generations growing up in this village. We are poor and where else will we go?” said 55-year-old Rukhsaar Bano.
Their Hindu neighbours are the only hope for them. The marriage of a Muslim girl, Nafeesa, is scheduled for October 11.
“The pandal is set up in the temple. They (the Muslims) were afraid about whether her marriage could be conducted peacefully. I have assured them and taken responsibility for the marriage of Nafeesa, who is like a sister to me,” said Vineet.