Forced into the spotlight after the lynching incident over alleged cow slaughter, Bisada village wears a deserted look despite the ongoing frenzy due to election campaigns across the state.
After the incident, many Muslim families had fled the village. Though some of them have returned, as many as 25 of the 60 families who lived in the village have relocated elsewhere.
Villagers said that politicians only care about issues in terms of votes and they are now hoping to live peacefully.
Bisada is a part of the Dadri assembly constituency and is located 50km from the national capital.
Over 4,000 villagers will cast their votes at four polling booths of Bisada under Dadri assembly constituency on February 11.
“Hindus and Muslims used to live together in harmony till 2015. The (lynching) incident created a sense of fear among the Muslim community. Of the 60 Muslim families that used to live in the village, 25 have moved to different locations due to fear, following the lynching,” Vineet Sisodia, a lawyer and village resident, said.
Sisodia had helped Muslim families following the incident, in which 55-year-old Mohammed Ikhlaq was lynched by a mob on September 28, 2015 after claims that he allegedly slaughtered a cow and stored its meat for consumption.
The administration has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 in the village and candidates cannot campaign in the village unless they obtain a clearance from the Election Commission. Even media persons are not allowed to enter the village on regular days.
On January 19, the Gautam Budh Nagar police lodged an FIR against Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dadri assembly constituency candidate Tejpal Nagar, 58, for organising a panchayat in the temple of Bisada village without permission.
No other candidate has visited them since, due to which villagers are accusing politicians of dividing them on religious lines. Coming out of the mosque after congregational prayers on Friday,
Muslims of the Hindu-dominated village seem resigned to their fate.
Sixty-six-year-old Haji Abdul Sattar recalls how the village, in the past couple of years, has become a favourite topic for politicians, to take sides and make fiery speeches about.
“No one cares about us. Our fates are sealed. Some people from BJP had come a few days ago, otherwise, life here is unaffected by the upcoming elections,” Sattar said.
He said that the (lynching) incident didn’t just result in the death of one person, but it destroyed the basic structure of the village. However, some of the Muslim families that had fled the village after the incident have come back and started life afresh.
Echoing Sattar’s sentiments, Mohammad Shahid, 25, said, “We want peace in our life. No political party has any gain from us. For them, the lynching episode is a card to cash votes. We are afraid of this rhetoric now. 2015 brought us gloom and we had to shift from here. We came back only after neighbours gave us hope.”
He said, “We don’t own land and we are solely dependent on wage labour and cannot afford to lose it. Since Ikhlaq uncle’s death, we have been confined to our homes.”
Residents said that the incident has led to differences between communities and it has resulted in a lack of trust.
Thirty-three-year-old Anil Singh, a shopkeeper in the village, said, “Before 2015, we would visit each other’s house on festivals. Now, that relationship is confined to greetings only. We don’t have problems with them, but it is just that there is less affection. The incident has put a strain on our relations,” he said.
Many of those who had left the village have never visited their houses again. Doors remain locked and windows, covered with layers of dust.
Back at the mosque, Mohammad Sageer, 48, a blacksmith said that the Muslim families are surviving through their neighbours’ support.
He said that the village has no use for politicians and that the villagers do not care about the elections as its results will not impact them.
“We don’t care who wins or loses. We want to go back in time and live peacefully with our neighbours, irrespective of our religion,” he said.
Lawyer Sisodia said, “The incident was dreadful. As long as I am alive, I won’t let anyone touch my Muslim neighbours, but the fear is still there. The remaining families are here only because of their livelihood; otherwise, they would have also gone. We have to win their hearts again to revive our old friendship.”
Sisodia visits these families every day and has warned them not to fall prey to any political party and not to participate in any campaign. “Their 200 votes can’t decide the fate of any political party, but they can be used for political gains by stirring up the lynching incident. I talk to them to ensure they are not being threatened,” he said.
The incident had triggered outrage over alleged intolerance under the BJP-led government, sparking mass protests across the country. Several writers and artistes had also returned their national awards in protest.