19 days later Fear,mistrust still in air; curfew lifed but shops remain shut
Nineteen days after Kosi Kalan town in Mathura witnessed communal rioting,in which four persons were killed,shops are still closed. There is fear,mistrust and allegations that police have booked innocent people in criminal cases.
Curfew was imposed immediately after the clashes broke out in Kosi Kalan near UPs border with Haryana on June 1. The day curfew was lifted on June 7. Two days ago,it was completely lifted. Traders,however,are yet to open their shops.
The locals have formed a 41-member peace committee that has called for a mahapanchayat. People from neghbouring areas at Kokila Van,around 10 km from Kosi Kalan,have been called on Wednesday to discuss the situation.
Since the peace committee consists almost entirely of Hindus,the Muslims are apprehensive about the mahapanchayat. On Sunday,a delegation came to Lucknow and met Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav,urging him to restore normalcy.
One June 1,violence had broken out over a fight over the use of water stored at a religious shrine. After the violence and arson,21 FIRs were lodged. The district magistrate and superintendent of police were transferred.
The local Vyapar Mandal,which is an association of traders,is highly critical of the police administration. The traders allege that most of the people named in the FIR are either traders or their relatives,who were not involved in the violence. Since the police were searching for them,and also conducting raids,they cannot open shops.
On Sunday,a meeting was held at the initiative of Thakur Tejal Singh,local MLA,and it was decided that shops would open from Monday. However,not a single shop has actually opened. On Tuesday,the peace committee members tried to go to the market to persuade traders to open shops,but the district administration,fearing trouble,stopped them.
Former BJP minister Ravikant Garg,who is president of the Vyapar Mandal,said that shops will remain closed till the administration expunges the FIRs lodged against the traders. The traders suffered the maximum in the riots,their shops and goods were gutted. Now they have been implicated. The administration should revoke the FIRs,only then peace will return and shops open, said Garg.
Lalit Arora,convenor of Kosi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and trader leader,stated that many cross FIRs had been lodged between the two communities and these should be deleted.
We are ready to submit affidavits to withdraw the cases against each other. The police lodged FIRs by noting down names from signboards of the shops. Names like Sonu,Raju,Pappu are mentioned. Traders are being harassed, said Arora.
Maulana Tahir,imam of a local mosque who led the delegation that met the Chief Minister on Sunday,said,We are apprehensive about the panchayat which will be held on Wednesday. It is just being done to create fear and a show of strength. He said people from adjoining villages are being invited to the mahapanchayat,which could only spread the tension.
On its part,the district administration has assured security to shopkeepers. Mathura SSP N Padmaja admitted that several traders were been named in the FIR. Police will not harass any innocent person,but those named in the FIR will not be spared. Those who indulged in rioting will be nabbed. If any trader is named in the FIR,he cannot escape by not opening his shop, said Padmaja.
She also ruled out revoking the FIRs lodged against the traders. There is no question of any such step, she said.