Communal riot in Meerut

New Delhi: They went to a small mosque called Chhoti Masjid in Qazipur village at the outskirts of Meerut city and asked for water. An attendant in the mosque or some small children who were being taught Qur’an by the Masjid Imam, Iqrar Ahmad, offered them tap water but these people insisted on cold water. They were told that they didn’t have any cold water, only tap water. At this they entered the mosque and verbally misbehaved with the Imam and when he protested against their ‘abuse’ without any provocation, they physically assaulted and thrashed him. When some small children tried to come to the help of ‘Molvi Saheb’, these people did not spare the innocent children and even assaulted them too. This, in brief, is the origin of the communal riots that erupted in Meerut on Sunday 24 April evening and with the passage of every hour spread to more and more localities and areas and took a violent, communal turn, which continued till 2 or 3 O’clock midnight (25 April early morning) after which, according to police, it was brought under control, but not before at least 30 persons, including 10 police personnel, were injured, at least 3 UP roadways buses, many other motor cycles, cars, at least a dozen houses and many shops and other properties, two police stations etc. were set on fire by the angry mob. Till Monday 25 April night no death however was reported. According to reports, seventeen persons were initially arrested.

When the news of Imam Iqrar Ahmad being thrashed spread in the village, some local Muslims lodged a complaint against the unsocial elements who had thrashed him and demanded their arrest, the S.H.O. ignored it and said that action will be taken after an hour or so. Meanwhile, seeing the indifferent attitude of the police, a large number of people of Qazipur assembled, and indulged in subversive activities and set some vehicles on fire. The riot spread to other localities in Meerut city also and people of both communities came face to face and indulged in stone pelting. When the police arrived, the crowd started raining stones at them with the result that many of them were injured and being outnumbered, they had to flee, only to return in greater strength. Seeing the wide area where the riots, violence and arson had spread, PAC and Rapid Action Force personnel had to be deployed by the authorities and top police officials of Meerut set up camps there.

It was reported that in the very beginning complaints were made to the local S.H.O. but since no action appeared to have been taken, Imam Iqrar Ahmad and others personally went to the police station and lodged a complaint but, according to news reports, police authorities sat on it and did not move. It was only after the riots spread to more areas and also became more violent and when acid bombs and petrol bombs were hurled at certain places, police went into action. In Zakir Nagar Colony of Meerut a house, with a 2-year old girl and her mother inside was set on fire by miscreants. Both were admitted to a hospital and said to be recovering from burn injuries. All the injured were admitted to different hospitals. Iqrar Ahmad said that if immediate action had been taken on his complaint, no riots would have taken place, not to speak of it spreading to other places. Some miscreants made most of the opportunity, to flare communal tension. On Monday 25 April, markets in the affected areas remained closed and as a precautionary measure schools were also asked to close by the authorities.

IG of Meerut, Rajni Kant Misra told reporters on 25 April that a case against five persons who had attacked the Imam had been registered. They were identified as Sandeep, Chhotoo, Kapil etc. They all were absconding but were caught later and jailed. In Lucknow Special DG Brij Lal said on 25 April that 9 companies of PAC and 4 companies of RAF were deployed in the affected areas and constant vigil was being maintained. Meerut police is also trying to find out if the riot was pre-planned because there was no reason for the Imam being abused and thrashed whose students had offered water but the insistence of the miscreants on being served cold water and then abusing and beating the Imam was simply an excuse to provoke Muslims for some retaliatory action. Moreover, the riot originated in the village but the speed with which it spread to large parts of Meerut in a couple of hours raises doubts that there might have been planning behind it.

According to subsequent news, UP Chief Minster Mayawati has ordered suspension of Meerut DIG/SSP, J.N. Singh for dereliction of duty, reaching late at the troubled spot and transfer of Subhash Chand Sharma, D.M. Though no official estimates of losses on account of arson etc. have been forthcoming, unofficially it is estimated that movable and immovable properties worth more than Rs. 100 crore were destroyed in these riots.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2011 on page no. 5

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