Manoj Singh dived into the Gang canal expecting to find the dead body of his neighbour, but came out with a ray of hope.
"No dead body here, so we may still find Brijpal Singh Rana who is missing. He was in the tractor trolley along with many others returning from the Mahapanchayat of September 7 that came under attack from the Muslims of Jolly, Kevda and khedive Firozabad," Manoj said.
Singh and his fellow villagers from Baseda, some 30 kilometres from Muzaffarnagar, had gone with thousands of others to participate in the Mahapanchayat and protest against inaction of the local administration in arresting the Muslims responsible for killing of two Jat boys - Gaurav and Sachin - on August 27.
They also accused the police of unnecessarily naming relatives of Gaurav and Sachin for killing of Shahnawaz, a Kaval Muslim.
"We were returning from the Mahapanchayat, when shots were fired on us. We hid in the nearby fields but our trollies were thrown in the canal and tractors were put on fire. Police later sent us back to our villages. Some of our associates are still missing and Brijpal is one of them," says Chandravir, a member of the search party.
Sources say once the news of the attack reached their homes, the very next day Muslims were targeted all around Muzaffarnagar district resulting in the death of over 30 people.
So far, 37 people have been killed in Muzaffarnagar since the riots erupted on September 7.