It was a quirk of fate that brought the army convoy to the palatial house of Bijender Singh,pradhan of Kharad village. The army was responding to a call by an Assam Rifles jawan posted in the Northeast about the fate of his family. When the army reached the house on Monday afternoon and the doors were opened,its 150 occupants breathed a sigh of relief.
For two days,the Jat pradhan had been sheltering the 150 Muslims in his house mostly women,children and the elderly assuring them safety at risk to his own family even as mobs roamed the neighbourhood.
The food came from his personal stocks and when the time came to depart the sheltered families requested the army to evacuate them out his wife had a tearful goodbye with her neighbours of decades.
We all could hear the shouts. ‘Let us attack this house,’Let’s scale these walls,’Force them to come out. This was after word had spread that Muslim families had taken shelter in the house. But no one dared come in. Had they done so,we would have been prepared to handle them, says the heavyset Singh.
With most families taking shelter in the Pradhans house,there was only one communal killing in the village,on Sunday. As fate would have it, it was the grandfather of the jawan whose worried calls had brought in the army convoy.
Sagir Ahmed was certain nothing would happen to him. We pleaded with him to come but he said he is an old man who no one would harm. His house is barely 200 metres away but we could do nothing to help him, Singh says.
Even on Tuesday,Singhs house was sheltering over two dozen Muslims.