‘Fear, Shame’: Why No Muslim Grieved With Aligarh Toddler’s Family
A lane outside the victim’s house in Aligarh’s Tappal.
A lane outside the victim’s house in Aligarh’s Tappal.(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

‘Fear, Shame’: Why No Muslim Grieved With Aligarh Toddler’s Family

“The Hindus and Muslims in our village have always stood together in the face of tragedies. Ten days have passed since the death of the little girl, not one Muslim has come to grieve with us. What changed?”

So asked Ramesh*, one of the uncles of the two-and-a-half-year-old girl who was abducted and brutally murdered in Aligarh’s Tappal by two men, Zahid and Aslam, allegedly over a financial dispute.

When I took Ramesh’s question to a Muslim man standing at the corner of the road leading to the girl’s home, he said, “We fear consequences. What if there is a clash?”

Barely 800 metres away, around 20 policemen stand guard to defuse any tensions that may break out in the village. Hindus and Muslims have near-equal representation here.

A police officer who sits guard outside the victim’s family. Batches of PAC officers are put on charge on rotation.
A police officer who sits guard outside the victim’s family. Batches of PAC officers are put on charge on rotation.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

Also Read : One of the Aligarh Accused Was Booked for Daughter’s Rape in 2014

How Tappal Became a Tinderbox

Seven days after the decomposed body of the toddler was found in a garbage dump opposite Zahid’s house, a group masked in saffron attempted to storm into the village with chants of “Jai Shree Ram” and “Zahid ko phaasi do” (Hang Zahid), stoking communal tensions.

Fifty-three-year-old Babloo has lived in the village all his life. Sitting in a cot inside his newly painted garage, he says,

“There were both locals and outsiders, some of them even came till the gate of the victim’s house and into the neighbourhood. But most of them were stopped by the police at the borders. Otherwise things could have gone worse.”
Babloo

Hindutva leader Sadhvi Prachi had also been denied permission by the police to enter the village.

SSP Akash Kulhari told us that was because “it was important to maintain law and order.”

Also Read : Amid Tension in Aligarh, Hindu Woman Saves Muslim Family From Mob

Since the murder came to light, social media has seen a flurry of fake news and parallels with the Kathua rape and murder case.

“There has been tension in the village,” says 40-year-old Rinku, seated beside Babloo.

‘No Muslim Stands by the Culprits, We Are Ashamed of Them’

Salman (second from left) sitting with three Hindu men from his village – Naresh, Babloo and Rinku.
Salman (second from left) sitting with three Hindu men from his village – Naresh, Babloo and Rinku.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

Salman, who joined Rinku and Babloo, said, “What happened to the girl is shameful. We want justice for her but we are scared to visit their house. Their anger is justified, but what if it takes a wrong turn?”

“But if you don’t even try to go, the rift between the communities will only get wider,” Babloo interrupts. Salman nods in silence.

Shahveer Shah sits in the Tappal main market surrounded by Muslim men.
Shahveer Shah sits in the Tappal main market surrounded by Muslim men.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

Sitting in the main market a little way away among Muslim men, Shahveer Shah says,

“Nobody from the Muslim community is supporting the culprits. Yes, we failed to grieve with them [victim’s family] this time, because we are ashamed that such a heinous crime was committed by two members of our community.”

Are Muslims Fleeing Tappal?

A Muslim tailor sits in silence as Shahveer Shah dispel theories of men from his community fleeing Tappal “out of fear”.
A Muslim tailor sits in silence as Shahveer Shah dispel theories of men from his community fleeing Tappal “out of fear”.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

Aslam and Zahid’s families had fled Tappal a day after their arrests, yes, but rumours and reports have suggested that many more Muslims had vacated their homes in the village out of “fear”.

Ramesh (the victim’s uncle), on the other hand, believes there’s a more sinister motive.

“Go and check... there have been so many houses which have been locked down. Why did they flee? It seems like the entire Muslim community is standing by the accused.”
Ramesh
Few Muslim men who had gathered around Shah at the main market.
Few Muslim men who had gathered around Shah at the main market.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

But there may be a more innocuous explanation than either of the above.

Shah, who had once fought the panchayat elections, says, “There are a lot of Muslim weddings which happen after Eid. The families who have left have gone to attend weddings. They will all come back.”

A tailor busy stitching clothes, refuses to talk. “It is the wedding season, madam. Can’t talk now.”
A tailor busy stitching clothes, refuses to talk. “It is the wedding season, madam. Can’t talk now.”
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

Even SSP Kulhari, in a quote to ANI, denies that there has been a mass migration of Muslims in the village due to communalisation. “Those who have gone have gone for weddings,” he said.

Though this reporter found a few Muslim houses that do have locks hanging on their doors, it could not be ascertained whether they had fled out of fear, or had temporarily left the village for some occasion like a wedding.

Girl’s Father Denies Communal Intent

“My child is gone. She was in such a bad state that I could barely identify her. She was mercilessly killed. I don’t care which religion the criminal belongs to. Brutality has no religion for me,” said Ram Singh*, the toddler’s father.

One of the local mosques from where the victim’s father had made announcements on 30 May to locate his missing child.
One of the local mosques from where the victim’s father had made announcements on 30 May to locate his missing child.
(Photo: Asmita Nandy/The Quint)

On 30 May, when his daughter went missing, the first thing Ram Singh had done was to go to the mosques in the village to make announcements to find her.

“I cannot blame an entire community for two criminals. There is evil on both the sides.”
Ram Singh

Ram Singh sighs and leaves the tent. His elder brother, Ramesh, repeats, “But why did no Muslim come to grieve with us?”

(*Names changed to protect identities.)

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