Lying on the hospital bed, constable Arun Patil (26) is alerted by a phone call. It’s his mother on the other side. “Harsul main aahit mea, barobar aahe (I am at Harsul and I am fine),” he lies. “How can I tell her that I am injured? It would work her up unnecessarily and she would want to come here,” Patil justifies. “It isn’t safe here,” he adds.
A constable with the Nashik district police headquarters, Patil was asked to go to Harsul Tuesday when the situation went out of control there, with a group of local tribals clashing with another group over the death of a youth. Part of the additional deployment, Patil reached the spot around 1 pm. “By the time we reached, the situation had been brought under control. We took position by placing our shields and didn’t move from the location till late night,” he recalls. “I then took a break and was replaced by another constable. I resumed duty at 6 am Wednesday,” he adds.
According to Patil, things went out of control around 11 am. “We were positioned near Hotel Misscall, which is surrounded by dense bushes. Suddenly, people started hurling stones from different directions. I took cover behind the shield but a big stone hit me on my face. I was left bleeding,” he says.
“Other than men, even youngsters were hurling stones at us using a catapult and shielding behind various vantage points on the hill top,” he claims.
D B Ambhore (32) from the Reserve Police Force (RPF) has a similar tale to narrate. “I was also stationed around the hotel when a stone hit my left leg,” he recalls. The RPF has been deployed since Monday. “We were sent on Monday after there were reports that the situation might go out of hand owing to the death of the youth,” he adds.
Back in Harsul, an eerie silence has engulfed the small tribal hamlet located next to a ghat. Shattered glass pieces spilled intermittently on the ‘kachcha’ road, broken doors and patches of oil on the street are scattered remnants of last night’s vandalism.
Sayyed Muktar, 32, joined the delegation to meet Guardian Minister Girish Mahajan at the guest house on Wednesday to protest against the attack, which he claims was planned. “I was inside my house, resting, when a mob of over 200 people, all Adivasis, barged into my house and ransacked it. They vandalised my general store and took away my stock and broke my three JVC machines,” he says. “We made repeated calls to the local police station but in vain. Nobody came, they allowed the village to burn,” he adds, angrily.
Pervez Kokani, a resident of Trimbakeshwar who was a part of the delegation that met the district collector to request a thorough probe, too claims that Tuesday’s violence was premeditated. “They had distributed pamphlets all over warning of an attack on Tuesday but the police took it lightly. Sensing that something was brewing, a delegation met the police police last week only and informed them that there might be violence, but police did not act,” he says.
Meanwhile, the police have transferred an assistant police inspector who failed to respond to the calls made by locals. “A judicial inquiry has been ordered and anyone found guilty will be punished,” Mahajan adds.