Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014

Muzaffarnagar riots: Tales of tragedy and destruction unfold in refugee camps

Written by Apurva | Posted: September 15, 2013 5:01 am

Lisarh represented all that was good in Muzaffarnagar,dubbed the sugar bowl of India. It had the prosperity arising from the region’s agrarian boom,and in its demographics,it had two communities living and working together in peace.

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Haji Samiuddin,65,of Lisarh represented all that Muzaffarnagar could have been. Having toiled in his fields for decades,he had ensured his children got a good education and saw them become owners of a saw mill. The family business was booming,and they were thinking of expanding.

Samiuddin and his wife are now dead,killed and dumped inside their burning home. And Lisarh,a village that was on the cusp of becoming a town,will now never be the place it was.

***

Samiuddin’s eldest son Saeed Hassan remembers each detail of the last time he met his father. It was the morning of September 7. Things had been worsening,and they had heard of the Jat mahapanchayat being held that day in Sakheda,35 km away. “The Jats have gathered in lakhs. Our friends are leaving and so should we. These are dangerous times,” Hassan had said.

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Samiuddin found this incredulous. “We have lived here all our lives,half the youngsters here have grown up sitting in my lap. Nobody will harm us here,” he said.

Hassan says he told him that it was no longer about the villagers. “This is about politics and things we are not connected to.”

However,Samiuddin insisted on staying. “You go son,you have your children to think about,” he said. “You mother and I were born here and come what may,we will die here.”

His mother Hamida,age 58,had added,“I cannot leave your father’s side. Jahan bhi jao khuda to sab jagah hai (Wherever you go,god is everywhere).”

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***

Their faith in Lisarh wasn’t without basis. Like several other villages in the surrounding areas,it had considerable Muslim presence. In its population of 8,000,close to 2,500 were Muslims. The village,like most others in the region,is also primarily agrarian,with the economy centered around sugarcane. A few hundred work in two brick kilns on the fringes of the village,while some commute to Muzaffarnagar to serve in government offices.

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“Four thousand are Jats,and the other 1,500 Hindus are Nais,Valmikis,Kumars and Pandits. There are two ponds here,and all the children used to play there together. Because the communities were so evenly distributed,it was very hard to imagine violence on a scale such as this,” says Mahender Kumar,a resident of the village.

If Hassan employed Hindus as labourers in his mill,like other prosperous Muslims,the workforce for Jat farmers was Muslim. There is both a temple and an equally large mosque in the village,and festivals were celebrated together. “During Eid,the Muslims would make food for the rest of the village,and this was reciprocated by us in times like Diwali,” says Rakesh Choudhary,a Jat of the village.

***

Lisarh had also given Samiuddin all he had hoped for. “We continued…

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