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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT
Sardhana riots disrupt peace

Meerut: Communal elements are always on the lookout for a chance to disrupt peace in the country. Minor incidents are often turned into major riots. A case in point is the riot that erupted in the town of Sardhana near Meerut.

An RAF jawan guards Sardhana town

An RAF jawan guards Sardhana town

A Hindu youth was killed in Boodha Babu mela in the night of 18-19 June. The killers are still unknown. But the incident provided a chance to communal elements to target the Muslim community. Next day a mob burnt three buses and two shops to ashes and damaged two dozen vehicles, shops and houses. The incident led to stone-pelting and heavy clashes between members of the two communities in which about half a dozen people were injured.
According to available information, on 18 June miscreants stabbed Chandrapal alias Bobi leaving him in a pool of blood. Bobi was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him dead. Using this tragedy, a rowdy mob targeted the Muslim community and burnt and damaged vehicles, shops and houses. Indefinite curfew was imposed on 19 June which continued for a few days and was being slowly relaxed as we go to press on 25 June. On 24 June two Muslims were killed within Sardhana tehsil area and a mutilated corpse was also discovered. RAF, ITBP and BSF have been deployed in the town. Over 90 persons have been arrested.

Adjacent areas witnessed a tense situation. Police were put on alert in Meerut, Aligarh, Saharanpur and other sensitive districts of almost entire western UP fearing any untoward incident.

The situation further aggravated when Bobi's uncle was hacked to death while returning home after cremation of his nephew. The matter could not have reached this level had the cremation taken place in the nearby cemetery. The dead body was deliberately taken to the far off cemetery situated at Daruala Road, close to a Muslim village. The angry crowd returning after the cremation attacked Muslim houses, including the house of former MLA Abdul Waheed Qureshi, and threw stones at a mosque which led to more trouble. 

Ahmad Rashid Shervani, member of the National Minorities Commission visited the village on 22 June and met senior representatives of both the communities. He asked them to maintain peace and said the guilty should be punished. None should be allowed to paint the incident with a communal colour to use it against any particular community, he said, adding that the responsibility to maintain peace and punish the guilty lay on the district administration.
Dr Merajuddin Ahmad, chairman of UP Export Corporation Ltd, visited the town with a delegation and demanded an impartial investigation into the incidents. While speaking about the town's peaceful atmosphere he said the mushaira oraganised at Boodha Babu mela is a proof of the town's peaceful co-existence as Hindus participated in it in greater numbers than Muslims. He reminded that Church of Sardhana, built by Begum Soomru, is known all over the world. 

Initial lapse was reported on the part of police in controlling the situation. UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav took a strong notice and suspended six police officers including Meerut district SSP Badri Prasad Singh. He has now been replaced by Prabhat Kumar. The CM said the sacked police officers had been irresponsible in their duty. Strict action should be taken against such officers so that others take lesson from them, he said.

While normalcy was returning to Sardhana, tensions and tempers rose high once again when some armed men killed the driver and a passenger of a vehicle in Malhera village near Sardhana on the night of 22 June. Police do not link the incident with Sardhana violence. The slain have been identified as Farman and Sahib Singh. On the other hand, the other youth killed earlier on 20 June has not been identified so far. 

District magistrate Rajesh Kumar Singh told correspondents that the riots would be probed thoroughly. Meanwhile, violence broke out in Fatehpur Vishnoi village in Moradabad after extremists entered a mosque and threw out Muslim religious books. Earlier too there have been clashes between the two communities over the place. Muslims are strictly forbidden from offering congregational prayers there. Two years ago Kanth SDM had locked the place which also houses a madrasah. But extremist elements broke the lock and threw Muslim religious books out.

A joint delegation of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and Parcham Party of India visited the village on 22 June and demanded the arrest of people who desecrated the religious books. The delegation also made a strong demand to allow Muslims to offer prayers in the Noorani mosque situated there. PAC personnel were deployed in the village and the place was locked again. A case has been registered with the police against seven persons for the desecration. However, so far no arrests have been made.

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