Several Muslim residents have fled Dada Jalalpur village in the Bhagwanpur block of Uttarakhand's Haridwar district following recent incidents of communal violence.
Similar to the recent spate of communal violence in Madhya Pradesh's Khargone, Delhi's Jahangirpuri and several locations across India, the violence in Dada Jalalpur also took place around a religious procession, Hanuman Jayanti in this case.
However, what's different here is the manner in which several Muslim families have fled the area and sought refuge with their relatives in nearby districts of Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.
The Sequence of Events
On the night of 16 April at around 7 pm, a procession was taken out in Dada Jalalpur on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti. The procession of nearly 1,000 people, including participants from three neighbouring villages, was led by a local Bharatiya Janata Party leader JaI Bhagwan Saini.
In the videos accessed by The Quint, several members of the procession can be seen carrying swords and lathis. As the procession moved through the Muslim-concentration area of the village and reached the Badi mosque, the Jama Masjid of the village, the crowd allegedly raised slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Hindustan mein rehna hai, to Jai Shri Ram kehna hoga” (those who want to stay in India will have to say Jai Shri Ram).
Bano (55), who lives with her family of three people near the Badi Mosque told The Quint that the elders of the Muslim community urged the Hindus in the procession to not take out the rally in front of the mosque. “They did not listen to them and started attacking them with sticks. They pelted stones and bricks at our houses,” Bano alleged, showing injuries she sustained on her head and left elbow when she was allegedly hit with a stick by the mob.
The Muslim residents allege that the procession stopped in front of the mosque and they played loud music.
The stone pelting began soon after. Both sides accuse the other side of starting the stone pelting.
“Every year they take out this procession from the main road. But this time they took a detour and took out the rally from the road where the mosque is located,” said a Muslim resident, who requested anonymity.
Some Muslim residents allege that during the violence, several announcements were made from the mic of the main temple asking the Saini community of the village to pick up arms and assemble near the temple.
Nearly 4,000 people live in the village, of which around 1,800 are Upper Caste and OBC Hindus, comprising predominantly the Saini caste. About 1,500 are Muslims and the remaining 600-700 residents are Dalits.
“I was attacked by the Mohammedans. I was hit by a stone on the head while we were taking out the rally,” said a 12-year-old boy who had a bandage wrapped around his head.
Around 20-25 people from both the communities were injured in the stone pelting incident.
Muslim residents of the village alleged that the Hindu mob mistakenly attacked a Dalit house towards the northern limits of the village, beating a 16-year-old Dalit girl.
A local journalist and resident, who requested anonymity, told The Quint that Mehek Singh, President of the Roorkee unit of Chandrashekhar Azad’s Bhim Army, assured them solidarity and support of the Dalit community and his organisation.
Muslim Properties Torched
Three Muslim shops were looted and a shop, a car, an e-rickshaw and three bikes belonging to people of the Muslim community were burnt.
Abid Ali (35), whose house is situated at the northern limit of the village, with only a handful of Muslim households around, said that a mob of around 200 people attacked his house.
“They vandalised my house, beat me up and then brought the car from the garage and set it on fire. I had bought the car in 2020. In just minutes, I lost over four lakh rupees. When the mob entered the house, I hid my children in the washroom.” When this reporter visited Ali’s house, the floor was covered with broken glass and drops of blood.
A Hindu resident whom The Quint spoke to said that his nephew had to get seven stitches as he was hit by a stone during the violence. He said that Hindus burnt vehicles of Muslims in retaliation to the stone pelting.
Another Hindu resident who requested anonymity said, “They get cylinders free of cost. They have BPL (Below Poverty Level) cards. We don’t have them. Still, they bad-mouth Modi and Yogi.”
Villagers Allege Initial Inaction by the Police
According to the villagers, nearly 100 police personnel were present in the village at the time of the first procession.
“The police did not do anything to stop the rally. They only stood there as mute spectators,” said Wajid, 32, who works as a farmer and lives in the Muslim majority area of the village.
Parveen (70), who lives 30 yards away from Ali, said, “My Hindu neighbours pelted stones at my house and looted my son’s shop. The police were standing on the opposite side of the road from where they were pelting stones at my house. They did nothing. They just watched.”
“The police forced us into our homes at the time of the second procession. The mob raised the same slogans in front of the police even then,” alleged Bano.
Hindutva Outfits Demand Demolition of Muslim Houses
In the morning on 17 April, nearly 300 people from the Saini community from neighbouring villages gathered in Dada Patti village to hold a panchayat to mobilise in support of Hindus of Dada Jalalpur.
“One of the speakers said that those people would come and search the homes of Muslims,” alleged a resident from the Muslim community who did not wish to be named.
On the same day, during a press conference, Hindu Raksha Vahini, Yati Indranand Giri of Juna Akhada and Yati Pramodanand threatened to hold a religious conference in Dada Jalalpur in two days’ time if the administration did not demolish the houses of Muslims in the village. The demand was echoed by several Hindu residents of the village.
Around noon on 18 April, Yati Indranand Giri addressed a gathering in the village. He reportedly said, “We have given the administration 48 hours, today and tomorrow.” In a video accessed by The Quint, a crowd can be seen accompanying Indranand Giri and raising ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans in the village.
According to Muslim residents, two bulldozers were parked near the Muslim graveyard of the village for two days following the incident. When questioned by The Quint regarding the bulldozers, Brijesh Tiwari, Sub-district Magistrate of Bhagwanpur said, “We do not know who took the bulldozers there. They were there before this incident even happened.”
Muslim residents also alleged that the police asked them to surrender individuals named in the FIRs, failing which their houses would be demolished. SDM Tiwari refuted this allegation.
In recent days, following similar incidents of communal violence during religious processions taken out by the Hindu community, properties belonging to Muslims were demolished in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi citing illegal encroachment. In Delhi, the demolition drive was carried out on 20 April despite a Supreme Court order to maintain the status quo.
Yati Indranand Giri gave a protest call on 20 April at SDM office in Bhagwanpur demanding the arrests of Muslims. Tiwari said they will take measures to not allow them to protest. The protest was not carried out at the SDM office.
On 20 April, around 300 people, led by Dineshanand Bharti, protested at Toll Plaza in Bhagwanpur against Congress MLA from Bhagwanpur, Mamta Rakesh, and called for the arrest of the Imam of the Badi Mosque of Dada Jalalpur.
FIRs and Subsequent Arrests
On the morning of 17 April, the police registered an FIR under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 149 (unlawful assembly for a common cause), 336 (any rushed act endangering human life and safety), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 153-A (promoting enmity between two religions), and 295-A (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings). The FIR was registered against 12 people, all of them Muslims, and another 40 unnamed individuals.
So far, the police have arrested 14 people, all Muslims, in connection with the violence. Six of them were arrested on the night of 16 April. More than two dozen individuals have also been picked up for questioning.
The Quint reached out PD Bhatt, Staff Officer of Bhagwanpur Police Station over a phone call. He said, “We have placed a reward on 7 people.” Speaking on the allegation made by Muslims about one-sided arrests, he said, “We are doing investigation based on the complaints we received. They [Muslims] have not given any official complaint to us.”
“If the police did not take action, many people would have been injured and someone could have died as well. We acted on time to stop violence.” he said.
Muslims Allege Bias in Police Action
“The police are carrying out a one-sided investigation. If they see a Muslim, they arrest him. But they are not arresting people from the other side even though they started the violence. They come at night and pick up our boys in their sleep. Just last night (18 April), at around 10 pm, three Muslim men were picked up while they were sleeping on their terrace,” said Zaffar* (name changed on request), a 44-year-old Muslim man who owns a grocery shop in the village.
Husan Jahan (60), who owns a 6-acre farm, said that she was being harassed by the police for whereabouts of her 35-year-old nephew, Shahzad.
“Several policemen came to my home. They abused me and forcibly took all the contacts from my phone. My nephew does not even live in the village, ask anyone in the village. But he has been named in the FIR,” said Jahan. Shahzad works in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand.
Jahan’s son Farid (34) has paralysis and is admitted in Jolly Grant Hospital in Dehradun since the past two months and is being attended to by her husband Talib (63). “I am about to suffer a mental breakdown because of my son’s health condition, not having a regular source of income and the constant harassment by the police,” said Jahan.
The Quint spoke with Gosin (30), whose husband Mustakim (34), a daily wage labourer, was arrested by the police. “They said they were taking him for questioning and arrested him at the police station. My husband was not even home at the time of the violence. He had come home from work after the rally had ended,” she claimed.
“Police didn’t let him get treated in the hospital. He was admitted in Rishikesh. The police picked up Guddu from there. He was wounded in the clash,” said Mukeem*, 26. Guddu is a 24-year-old Muslim man who is enrolled in a private college in Roorkee.
Akhtari’s (55) three-month-old granddaughter was allegedly hit by pieces of glass when stones pelted towards her house broke the windowpanes. Fearing for their safety, Akhtari has sent her daughter-in-law and granddaughter to Saharanpur. Meanwhile, her two sons, Rais (35) and Babur (24), have been arrested by the police.
“The people in the procession had brought stones in jute bags in their tractors. The attack was pre-planned. This is the fourth day since the incident. The police are still picking up people. They said they’d only let us live in peace after they’ve arrested 40 people,” said Akhtari.
Several Muslim Residents Have Fled Their Homes
Many of the Muslim homes in the village now stand abandoned. The Quint visited four neighbouring villages to meet the Muslim families who left Dada Jalalpur. However, fearing the police and targeting by locals, they refused to speak. The sarpanch (head) of a Muslim-majority village told this reporter that on the night of 16 April, several hundred Muslims came to his village for safety. They however left for their relatives' places in Uttar Pradesh the very next morning, he said.
“We have not fed our cattle. We have not fed our children. We have not eaten anything. We barely managed to save ourselves,” said Ishtikhar, 74, a farmer. Ishtikar has sent his two sons away fearing their arrests.
“We celebrate only one festival in a year. During that too, they have started taking out these processions. Why don’t they let us live in peace?” asked Gosin. According to Gosin, Mustakim is lodged in Roorkee Jail. She said all her Muslim neighbours are leaving the village and they have asked her as well to go to her mother’s place in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking on the current situation in the village, Parveen said, “I’m so afraid, I keep my house locked all day. I’ve sent my son away. I have been keeping fast (for Ramzan) without having Sehri (pre-dawn meal for fast) for the last three days.” While this reporter was in Dada Jalalpur, a few Muslim residents came back to take away their belongings.
(Arbab Ali is an independent journalist based in Delhi.)