The death of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri’s Bisara village may have been shocking, but in villages within a 10-kilometre radius of the crime scene, it is hardly surprising. For four months now, a little-known organisation called the Samadhan Sena has kept the communal pot boiling in villages across Dadri, drumming up issues like Muslim shops in Hindu areas, loudspeakers in mosques and cow slaughter.
The Samadhan Sena, unknown outside Dadri, was set up in June by Govind Chaudhary, a resident of Virpura village. His house in Virpura was locked on Wednesday as was the Sena’s office in Jarcha village. The office was shut a few weeks ago, after Chaudhary was arrested for attacking the Jarcha village pradhan’s son. He was released on bail earlier this week.
“He is a nuisance in this area,” said Virpura village pradhan, Aman.
According to residents of Jarcha, Chaudhary held meetings which were attended by youth in the age group of 16-20 years.
At the meetings, they were told about issues that had never bothered them before — like cow slaughter and the “declining” population of Hindus.
Bisara is less than 10 kilometres from Jarcha, which also houses the police station for the area.
“There was a shop on the main road which closed overnight, and banners were put up that read ‘Samadhan Sena’. A few days later, they started holding meetings in Jarcha and the surrounding villages. A month later, Jarcha witnessed its first communal incident,” recalled Ehsan Ilahi, pradhan of Jarcha village.
Ehsan’s son Adil was attacked by a mob for opening a shop in the village. “They attacked my son for opening a small shop to repair fans saying the shop was built on land meant for Hindus. What is Hindu land and Muslim land in a village?” asked Ehsan. He added that the police had arrested those involved, including Chaudhary.
Just two months ago, in Kaimrala village in Dadri, three men — Arif, Anas and Nazim — were lynched by a mob of villagers for alleged cattle smuggling. Villagers intercepted a vehicle they believed was involved in cattle smuggling. Two buffaloes were dragged out of the vehicle, which was then set on fire. The three men who were inside the vehicle were beaten to death.
Recently, Chaudhary was asked to leave Baghpat district after provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Goondas Act were invoked against him. Dadri Deputy Superintendent of Police Anurag Singh said the police had begun the process of invoking similar sections in Gautam Buddh Nagar district as well. Speaking to The Indian Express, Senior Superintendent of Police Kiran S said, “We are probing all angles while investigating the lynching in Bisara, including what may have led to it.”
Dadri’s BSP MLA Satveer Singh Gurjjar blamed the BJP. “They have been active in this area for months now. After Muzaffarnagar, they want to target the communal harmony here. They use several small splinter organisations to achieve this, and one of them is the Samadhan Sena,” he alleged.
A few kilometres away from Jarcha is Kalaunda village. The Samadhan Sena reportedly convinced the priest of the only temple here to install loudspeakers. “Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony here even through the Babri Masjid incident, but now there are frequent fights. It started after the temple installed loudspeakers… devotional songs are played as soon as Azaan begins,” said the village pradhan, Hashmat Haji.
It’s the same story in Cholas, some kilometres away. Here, a fight between school children turned communities against each other. “All children fight, but this happened outside a temple, between a Hindu child and Muslim child. What do children know about religion? They never hate anything. The Samadhan Sena holds meetings in this area every Friday and they stoke tension between us. I don’t understand this,” said the village pradhan, Badshah Ali.
Back in Kalaunda, the father of an 18-year-old youth who regularly attends the Samadhan Sena meetings is bewildered. “I don’t understand where this strange radical thought process comes from. One day, he was talking about movie stars and item numbers. The next day he began saying the population of Hindus in the country has dipped. I have asked him not to attend these meetings, but do young boys listen these days,” he said, refusing to be identified.