A day after Bahadurgarh, a small village in Hapur district, saw a communal flare-up over a minor quarrel between two 15-year-old boys – one Hindu and the other a Muslim – villagers claimed that scuffle had started after a Hindu girl was reportedly “teased” by a Muslim boy in a local school.
But, no one – not the villagers and not even police know who or where this girl is.
On Thursday afternoon, members of the Qureshi and Lodha community in the village clashed after the two boys got into a fight in their school, Lal Bahadur Shastri Inter College. Police claimed the fight was over a “trivial matter”, but in the ensuing violence, over half a dozen shops were burnt down with “bottle bombs”.
Police however, denied villagers’ claims that the quarrel or the riots that followed were related to the incident involving the girl. “There was another incident of a girl being reportedly molested in the area. But the matter was settled between the parties and a compromise was reached. That incident is not related to the violence. It is possible that the people are linking that to the communal clash,” SP (Hapur) R P Pandey said.
Further, senior police officers said police had not been able to locate the girl yet. “Where is she? Nobody seems to know. If she was teased or molested, she should come forward and lodge a complaint, and we will take immediate action. Nobody has even come forward on her behalf to lodge a complaint,” Pandey said.
However, one of the caretakers at the school claimed to have seen the Muslim boy “troubling” the Hindu girl. The caretaker claimed that, as a result, the Hindu boy had slapped the Muslim boy a couple of times. “Once the boys stepped out of school, the Muslim boy reportedly called for other youths who were not students of the school. Together, they beat up the Hindu boy. He was bleeding profusely. We brought him back to school to give him first aid and then took him to hospital,” the caretaker claimed.
However, police also pointed to two other incidents which could have led to communal tension in the area.
“On Janmashtami, August 18, few men who were reportedly drunk, had fought with each other. The dispute was later resolved. However, a rumour spread that a minor communal clash had led to a few deaths. This was also incorrectly reported in a local paper the next day, which further fuelled communal sentiments in the area,” a police officer said.
“On the morning of August 20, around half a dozen trucks carrying cattle and presumably headed for the slaughterhouse, were intercepted near the village by a group of Hindus. That too created tension in the area. An FIR citing cruelty against animals has been registered,” the officer said.
According to Pandey, a proper investigation has been conducted into the cattle case and arrests have been made.
On Friday, there was no violence in Bahadurgarh, but both communities were engaged in tense discussions. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in the area by the district administration.
Police said, the original FIR registered against the rioters contains 14 named offenders and 150 unnamed ones. “We have arrested 13 people so far. In addition to the original FIR, eight other FIRs have been registered by the villagers for violence and destruction of property,” Pandey said.