Not a single shopkeeper is selling crackers in Kaval village this year. As an atmosphere of tension envelops the village, even children are scared of bursting crackers to herald Diwali.
It was here in Kaval on August 27 when, after an alleged incident of eve-teasing, two Jats first killed a Muslim boy and then were beaten to death in retaliation. Since then, Muzaffarnagar hasn't stopped burning with communal hatred.
"The children have not dared to explode crackers… We feel it's a blessing in disguise as it may sound like gunfire or some sort of explosion to the village residents," says Mohammad Furquan, 33, a shopkeeper.
The Hindus and Muslims of Kaval now hardly sit together. Muslims don't visit the shops owned by Hindus and Hindus avoid Muslim shopkeepers. Hindus have stopped buying even milk from Muslim milkmen. Even during Ramlila, some miscreants had tried to fish in the troubled waters.
"A brick fell down on the audience during Ramlila and it was sought to be projected as a communal act. Later, however, it transpired that a loose brick had accidentally fallen off a wall," said Mohammad Farman, 30, another shopkeeper.
The wounds are still raw in Kaval. Said Salem Mohammad, 70, the father of 19-year-old Shahnawaz who was killed by Malikpura village residents Sachin and Gaurav for allegedly teasing one of their cousins: "My son's killers have not been arrested but my relatives have been…for killing Sachin and Gaurav. Justice should be served equally."
Says Iqbal Singh, who repairs bicycles in Kaval: "The August 27 killings, followed by the riots in Muzaffarnagar, have saddened us. It is a stigma on our village as the riots started with an incident here and the Hindu-Muslim divide seems unbridgeable at the moment."