Exactly one year ago, police were missing from the state highway outside Kawaal village. In their absence, two Jat boys Gaurav and Sachin and one Muslim youth Shahnawaz were killed in an incident in the village, leading to violence which spread across the district, leaving more than 60 dead and about 50,000 displaced.
On Wednesday, when the family of the two Jats who were killed organised a hawan in their memory, security personnel were out in full force to ensure no untoward incident took place. There were more than 500 security personnel lining the streets.
In an area where the scars of the riots are still fresh, tempers had been rising before Thursday, and the police were necessary. “It was last week that the Jats announced that they would hold a hawan on August 28 in Malikpura village, where Gaurav and Sachin were from. Then reports in the local newspapers emerged that Muslims from Kawaal village would not allow people coming to the hawan to pass through their village. The only other road to Malikpura is unpaved and farther away. The Jats therefore said their guests would walk through
Kawaal, and it was up to them where they came from. Eventually, we had to speak to both sides, and while no road was shut off, we tightened security all along the road,” said a senior officer of the Muzaffarnagar district administration.
On the highway that connects Bijnore and Muzaffarnagar, and even in the streets through Kawaal village, people stayed away, waiting for the hawan to pass with bated breath. “The security makes us feel a little secure. But we just want this morning to pass by with no untoward occurrence. I have sent my wife and two children away for the day, and have decided to stay indoors till the evening. All it will take is for some mischievous youth to throw a stone for a flare-up to occur,” said Mohammad Yamin, a resident of Kawaal village.
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If Kawaal was waiting for the day to pass, it seemed that Malikpura had spent its year in wait for Thursday. A freshly paved road had come up up to the residence of Ravinder Singh, Gaurav’s father, where the hawan was felt. At noon, close to 500 Jats from nearby villages had arrived at the shamiana erected next to a canal, and chanted Hindu bhajans. Most called it a “family function”, but politics had entered too. The event saw the presence of Naresh Tikait of the BKU, Suresh Rana, BJP MLA , and Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjiv Baliyan, both accused in the riots.
They spoke of wanting peace in the region, but the side they were on was clear. There was no stop made at the home of Shahnawaz in Kawaal, but Gaurav and Sachin were remembered as martyrs. “I want peace to return to the villages. But one thing should be made clear.
Gaurav and Sachin reacted when their sister was misbehaved with and the people of Muzaffarnagar will never tolerate that. People who fled from their homes should return but have been made to sign affidavits after accepting compensation that they will not return home.
Many false FIRs have been filed against one side, and this is the state government’s doing,” Baliyan said.
Two kilometres away in Kawaal, Salim Qureshi, Shahnawaz’s father, said, “No action has been taken against them (the Jats). The killers of my son still roam free in front of my eyes and the administration has done nothing.”
On Thursday, the anger against the state government was the one thing that united Malikpura and Kawaal.