Focus

Curfew for Muslims in Ambala village

By Nadim Ahmad

Ambala/New Delhi: Thakurpura-Kalalti, a hamlet in Ambala district of Haryana, comprising of 11 Muslim families and about 400 non-Muslim families, is in a state of chaos. Muslims have been declared unwanted in the village. Their total boycott has been declared and undeclared curfew has been imposed on them by the Hindu residents of the village. They cannot move around in the village  or buy their daily necessities only because they wanted to build a mosque in their village. A majority of Muslim males have fled from the village, taking shelter with their relatives in nearby villages. Police deployment has been made but the non-Muslim villagers are equally unrelenting. The administration is finding it tough to make Muslims stay in the village. At the moment only ten persons with a few small children and women of Muslim families are left in the village and they dare not move around freely. Mariam, wife of Sabir Ali, who is staying in the village, said over the telephone that she “would stay in the village come what may”. All men and young girls fled the village after a diktat was issued on 14 August 2009 and renewed on 22 August 2009 with physical attack on Muslims, their homes and properties.
 

Police and local administration are providing food and daily necessities for Muslim women left behind in the village. According to Peerji Husain Ahmad of Budhia, ADC Ambala Ms Renu Phulia had personally intervened and assured that full protection would be given to those staying in the village. He insisted that it would not be advisable for Muslims to leave the village to settle elsewhere. Police posse at the entrance of the village is not allowing Muslims from outside the village to enter it while the administration has assured to provide medical treatment to injured persons free of cost and adequate compensation against damages. According to one of the victims, few consumer durables such as fridges and coolers have already been provided to them by the local administration and are kept at Zamir Ali's house in the village.

This reporter met some of the victims and residents of Thakurpura-Kalalti on 28 August. According to Zamir Ali son of  Umerdeen (55), who fled the village on August 22, "There are 11 houses beloning to two extended families in the village. They are eight families of our real brothers, two families of our children and one family of our distant relative. We are permanent residents of the village and are living in the village since very long time. We are small farmers although we do not have our own agricultural land. We till land on lease. Some of us are traders engaged in selling cloth from village to village. Our women are housewives. Literacy is very low in our community. One of my brothers is in Army."

The trouble for the community started in the third week of July, 2009, when Muslims of the village laid the foundation-stone of a mosque. Said Zamir Ali,  “Earlier we had been living in peace and harmony, even during Partition we had cordial and harmonious relationship with the Hindu community. We had generously contributed for temple in the village and still have many receipts of the contributions. There are many good people in the village who want to live peacefully but recently some outsider fundamentalists and bad elements have started sowing seed of hatred among the two communities of the village.” Another villager called Nannhe (60), elder brother of Zamir Ali, completes the narrative saying that, “The previous year my youngest brother Haji Sabir Ali bought a piece of land for rupees three and a half lakh, measuring one kanal and a marla, from Krishen Lal, a resident of the village, to build a mosque in the name of his wife Maryam...At the time of the purchase, Sabir had informed the seller that the land is for mosque. This year on July 21, when we tried to fix the direction of the qibla and lay the foundation-stone, members of the majority community objected and asked us to stop the construction. At that time they had told them: this is our purchased land and we would build the mosque. An argument ensued and we were threatened."

During the next two three weeks, rumours flew thick and fast and verbal threats also took place. "Members of the minority community who were found passing by were caught and beaten up or abused or harassed," said Naseeruddin (72) of village Telemajra, Budhiya, Yamunanagar,  the relative of a villager who had visited Kalalti during this period. Nanhe adds, "On 13/14 of last month they held a meeting and made announcement in the village with drum-beat that 'Muslims will have to shave off their beards, discontinue wearing caps, and desist from offering namaz, and stop building mosque if they want to live in this village.' They also announced that if they do not obey these rules, Muslims should vacate the village by the 18 of August otherwise they will be driven out of the village and their houses will be destroyed."

The matter was first reported on 16th of August in a section of Urdu press. Members of the minority community sought help from their acquaintances in the area. Matters were reported to the police also. Mediation started and police deployment was made in the village. On 18 August, an area panchayat of majority community was held in the premises of the government school of the village. According to Nanhe, “slogans hurting the sentiments of Muslims were raised and the demands were reiterated.” Nannhe adds, “On 20 August, local police administration called respected persons from both sides and held a meeting for reconciliation. About one hundred persons took part from the majority community while the police had asked only ten members from each side to take part.”  In the meeting it was agreed that the mosque will be built at a later date with consent and help from the majority community. "At this they (Hindus) demanded that Muslims should give in writing that they will not build the mosque but as this was unacceptable to us, we refused" said Zamir Ali.

Drum-beating, announcements and harassment of Muslims restarted after the failure of the reconciliation meeting. "The last act was in the afternoon on 22 August 2009 when a huge crowd armed with sharp weapons and lathis with many outsiders attacked us. They severely beat up our family members and destroyed and looted our properties,” said Zamir Ali. Twelve people got injured, four of them seriously. One Rulda son of Umerdeen (70) went into coma. He suffered sever head injuries and is currently admitted to PGI Hospital in Chandigarh. They also raised slogans such as “Muslims should be driven out to Pakistan”. They came in great numbers shouting slogans and armed with sharp weapons and attacked me and my elder brother" says Kreshan with tears in his eyes as he was recuperating in MM Hospital, Mullana. Kreshen had stitches on his head, under his left ribs and on his left thigh. The attack was on the pretext that Omveer, a young boy of 19, was beaten up by Haji Sabir Ali's men while he was going to market outside the village. On inquiry as to who paid for the medical bills, said Shaukat who  had stitches under his left ribs and on his left thigh, "Madam Saheba, ADC Ambala, has told us that we are not required to pay the medical bills.”   Cases of rioting and looting have been registered and some arrests have been made, while the actual culprits are still roaming free and the Muslims are unable to return to their village.

See AIMMM delegation report on page 11

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2009 on page no. 1

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