More Than a week after Ram Navami celebrations at a local temple in the village created tension between Hindus and Muslims, normalcy is yet to return in Bijnor’s Jogirampuri village. With half a dozen policemen guarding the temple and around 20 others stationed in other parts of Jogirampuri, at least 15 houses and shops have “this building is for sale” scribbled in blue paint on the walls.
On the morning of April 5, Hindus of Jogirampuri and neighbouring villages reached the Shiva temple for Ram Navami celebrations. The event was attended by Hindu Yuva Vahini’s Moradabad president N P Singh. “The event went on till late afternoon. Around 4-5 pm, it was time for the evening prayers at the village mosque. This is when trouble began,” says Ashok Kumar Yadav, circle officer (Nagina), Bijnor.
In Jogirampuri, where the majority of the residents are Muslims, a section of Hindu residents demanded that the loudspeaker on the temple’s dome should not be taken down.
“Prior to the celebrations, there had been a meeting between the two communities where it was decided that during Ram Navami a sound system would be used and it would be placed on the ground. However, some residents did not abide by the decision and placed the loudspeaker on the temple’s dome. The Ram Navami event happened without any interruption. However, later there was a demand to remove the loudspeaker because it was a violation of the agreement,” Yadav said.
Some Hindu residents alleged that the device was removed by cops.
Subdivisional magistrate, Najibabad, V K Singh said, “On Ram Navami, the loudspeaker on the temple’s dome was placed in violation of the agreement. In order to avoid any law and order situation, the police brought it down. Talks are in their final stage.”
N P Singh, on the other hand, alleged that earlier state governments had been “in favour of one community”. “A government is like the head of a family and it has to take all its members along. This did not happen with earlier governments here. If mosques have been given permission to use loudspeakers, temples should be allowed the same privileges,” he said.
In the seven days which have followed the incident, meetings between the two groups along with district administration and police have gone in vain. “Our demand is that the loudspeaker be allowed to stay on top of the temple dome. We should be allowed to use it for at least 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 minutes in the evening. On all festivals observed by us, we should be allowed to use the loudspeaker for 24 hours,” said Daya Ram Saini, president of the Shiv Mandir Committee in the village.
For Muslim residents of the village, the friction between the two groups has come as a shock. They said they had largely lived peacefully. “There are some external elements who are provoking people here,” said Mohammad Rafi Ansari, a former village head of Jogirampuri.
Jogirampuri’s Hindu residents are threatening to migrate from the village if their demands are not met. “What is the point of living in a place where you cannot take out a marriage procession, celebrate festivals and show devotion to your gods?” asks Roshan Kumar who runs a stationary and photocopying shop in the village.