Six hours of Gujarat in
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Dhanni Deeh/Bhinga (Eastern UP): Gujarat 2002 visited this small village of Sain (Muslim) community 10 July 2007. A week after the fateful day the community is still stunned and unable to resume their normal lives or even to properly speak to strangers. They still find it difficult to believe that what they went through on that fateful Monday could happen to anyone in this land. That kind of savagery and that too from their next door neighbours of Dharmantapur village which is situated barely some 2 and a half kilometers away.
Dhanni Deeh is a village under Sirsia police station on the Bhinga-Tulsipur road, in the newly created district of Shravasti in eastern UP some 65 kilometers from the earlier district headquarters of Bahraich and 22 kilometers from Bhinga, the new district headquarters. But this village is much more remote than what these statistical details show. Here the daily newspaper reaches in the afternoon. This reporter reached the village around mid-day carrying copies of that day’s newspapers. Residents were surprised to find the newspaper so early in the morning. Though a road passes at a distance of
3 kms from the village, it is not easy to reach it and impossible to leave it after sunset. The village is divided on communal lines. About 45 Muslim families live here on one side of the road while about 75 Hindu families live on the other side. Relations between the two communities are normally cordial. Hindus own most of the agricultural land and also have jobs while Muslims barely have around 75 bighas of land among them which is not enough for a living. Hence most males go to Mumbai to work as labourers. Muslims do not believe in educating their children who loiter around while the village seems to be populated by women alone with barely a dozen adult males. There is a mosque in the village but there was no sign that it was in formal use.
The trouble started on 7 July 2007. Saleem, son of Abdur Rahman “Chunnu”, aged about 24 years, eloped with Vandana Dwivedi, aged about 18-20 years. Vandana is the elder daughter of the former pradhan (village headman) Krishna Narayan Dwivedi of the nearby village of Dharmantapur.
On receiving the threats on 8 July some people of the Sain community, including Salim’s family, left the village same day. Pandit community people had come to the boy’s house late on on 8 July and threatened of “dire consequences” for all the villagers if the girl was not returned.
According to a villager, who requested anonymity, on the 9 July the girl’s father and uncle accompanied by two policemen and other supporters came to their locality around 4 pm, and asked about his daughter's whereabouts and demanded that she be returned “peacefully”. According to this source, one of the persons (identified as Ghanshyam Pathak) accompanying them threatened of “dire consequences” and said that “no one’s person or property will be safe”. As the boy’s family had already left, the policemen searched for the girl and the boy in the neighbours’ houses. Flanked by the policemen, Ghanshyam Pathak repeated his threat everywhere he went. That day some more persons of the Sain community asked their womenfolk to go elsewhere.
Same day (9 July) the police arrested four persons who were present in the village, namely Moinuddin son of Basharat Ali, 20 years, Ishmir son of Jabbar, 24 years, Abdur Rahman son of Abid Ali, 50 years, and Mubashir son of Liyaqat Ali, 23 years. They also seized one mobile set of Samiullah and a TATA Walky telephone of Tahir Maulana, a teacher who teaches in another village.This seems to be part of the already hatched plan so that no SOS or news goes out of the village when it is attacked next morning.
Moinuddin, who was arrested on the 9th July, told MG, that he saw at least 13 Muslims (four from his village, others from neighbouring villages) in the police lock-up, arrested for their alleged role in the case. He could remember only four other names: Latif, Putau and Baur of Simrehna village under Sirsia police station, Lallu and Nannhe of Parka Bansaha Naya Mauza village. They were released on 13 July and the telephone sets were also returned that same day.
On 10 July, at about 8:30 am, members and supporters of Pandit (Brahmin) community began gathering at the Peepal tree near Dharmantapur village, allegedly at the behest of Ashok Mishra, younger brother of a minister in the UP government. People were brought there in tractor trolleys from other villages. Seeing this, some members of the Sain community tried to escape but they were forcibly returned to their village from Dera Bhoji, a
neigbhouring village where some people of the Pandit community had gathered. Dhanni Deeh has only two exit routes and one of them passes through Dharmantapur. “This gathering of about 400 to 500 people had taken our senses away,” said Samiullah with tears in his eyes. “We were quite helpless. With only a few males left with us we could only hide ourselves,” he said adding that “We were apprehensive because of an earlier incident which took place some time back at Semrahna village where Muslims were beaten up and women raped en masse in similar fashion.” Continued
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