Almost a month after communal violence claimed three lives in Pedda village, notices scrawled in Hindi that read ‘Yeh makaan bikau hai’ (this house is for sale) came up Tuesday on the metal gates of the houses of some of the accused, all of the Jat community. The notices have since been erased.
Since September 16 when clashes took place between Jats and Muslims, the dominant community here, over the alleged eve-teasing of a Muslim schoolgirl, a new police outpost has been set up at the entrance to the village. Three Muslim men were killed in firing from terraces and 23 men of the Jat community were arrested. This has left a number of Jat households with no men, and the women say they are feeling “insecure” and “intimidated”.
Biresh, 60, whose husband Teekam Singh and sons Tejpal and Kailash are in jail, told The Indian Express, “Initially stones were pelted onto our courtyard. We complained to police but no action was taken. We feel harassed and wrote the message that our houses are up for sale. It has been over a month without a single male member of the family. But now that police have tightened security, we don’t plan to leave.”
Savita Devi, 45, whose sons Rajeev Kumar and Rahul are in jail, said, “I am all by myself with my daughters-in-law, so on most days I stay with Biresh and her daughters-in-law. The house is full of women, not safe at all.”
Three members of the VHP approached villagers to assure them of their backing. “When stones were pelted, we wrote a complaint to the police but no action was taken. These families are suffering so badly for no fault of theirs. Residents of neighbouring villages were involved in the incident but Jat men from this village were victimised,” alleged RP Singh, a VHP member.
Jitendra Chaudhary, VHP’s Bijnore district secretary, said, “We are alarmed by the news that the women want to sell their houses and leave because they feel threatened. We will not let this happen.”
Muslim villagers said they too felt insecure and had pulled their children out of school. “After the incident, classmates threatened to beat them, which scared us… But we will eventually have to send our children back to school,” said Khushnuma Khatoon.
Her neighbour Naseema sustained bullet injuries on two of her fingers. She said, “We lost our neighbours and relatives, some of our men are still nursing wounds and they (Jats) complain that we intimidate them. This is ridiculous. We are building higher walls around our houses because we feel insecure.”
Locals said the village has roughly 1,300 Muslim and 300 Jat voters.
Police dismissed the allegations of ‘insecurity’ by Jat women and suggested it could be a tactic to build pressure to release the accused. “There have been no incidents of unrest after the incident last month. The new outpost has one sub-inspector and four constables posted round the clock and we have Provincial Armed Constabulary deployment too. After the complaints on Tuesday we have asked the PAC personnel to sit right outside the houses,” said SP (City) Capt M M Baig.
“But the notices seem to be an act of mischief,” he added. “The women are illiterate and couldn’t have written the message themselves. Some others are involved, . Even the allegations of stone pelting seem to be false, we have not been able to find any evidence. The village has been largely peaceful over the past four weeks but some elements are trying to create unrest.”
A chargesheet is yet to be filed, he said.