At 9.30 am on Tuesday, around 20 children thronged two stalls — one selling “shakahari biryani” and the other tossing vegetables and noodles in a wok. Minutes later, a group of men, most donning skullcaps, made their way from the local Idgah to the stalls. As he picked up his 11-year-old son and walked to his residence, Jamil Mohammad, a daily wage labourer, said, “After offering namaz on Bakrid, people go to their houses and give qurbani (sacrifice). We used to do so earlier. After what happened last year, no one in the village is giving qurbani this time.”
Last year, in Dadri’s Bisara village, 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death over rumours of cow slaughter and beef consumption on the occasion of Bakrid. The death has altered customs in Bisara, which is home to over 30 Muslim households. This year, two police vehicles and half a dozen police personnel guarded the road located next to the paddy fields where the Idgah is located, as residents of Bisara and nearby villages trickled in to offer namaz.
In an effort to ensure that no untoward incident takes place, the Gautam Budh Nagar district administration had announced the imposition of Section 144 in parts of the district for a period of two months. While the authorities maintained that it was a routine procedure during this month when several festivals — from Shivaratri to Bakrid and Dussehra — are celebrated, an official statement from the district administration had referred to the Bisara case and some clashes in the district. While most villagers who visited the Idgah Tuesday maintained that “the situation is normal”, they remained cautious about Eid celebrations.
“So much has happened since Eid last year. Some members of the village feel that they have been wronged, others feel that their children are innocent and have been framed. In such a situation, no one should do anything to increase the tension,” said Shalin Ahmed, a resident of Bisara. After Akhlaq’s death, 18 residents of the village were arrested on murder charges. Imam Mohammad Dawood, who used to serve as an Imam at a mosque in a nearby village, moved to the Bisara mosque in December last year, two months after the incident.
“Till last year, I had never seen or heard of such an incident. People from different communities have been living here in harmony for so many years. We do not know what happened that night but it seems that some anti-social elements wanted to disrupt the atmosphere in the village. We need to make our children aware of such elements,” he said.
A few days after the incident, Akhlaq’s family had moved out of Bisara. On Tuesday evening, Dawood received a call from Akhlaq’s brother Mohammad Afzal, asking him about Eid celebrations in Bisara. Afzal said, “We just wanted to know how our brothers in Bisara are doing, how they celebrated Eid. Eid ke din ghar ki yaad to ayegi (one will think of home on the day of Eid).”