An altercation between Jats and Dalits over drinking water eventually led to the second round of communal clashes at Ballabhgarh’s Atali village on Wednesday, according to villagers.
Around 9 pm on Tuesday, while the last prayers of the day were being offered at the village mosque, a kirtan was going on at the adjacent temple.
“Both Dalits and Jats from the village were participating in the kirtan. After it got over, there was an altercation between the two communities over drinking water. A Jat man asked a Dalit to fetch drinking water. But he said it very rudely which led to an argument and a fight,” said Mohammad Ehsaan, who said he was present during the incident.
The temple in the village is adjacent to the mosque, which had been the target of miscreants when violence first erupted in the village back in May. Nearly 2,000 armed men had set fire to the mosque as well as to several homes and shops owned by Muslims. Both the temple and mosque source their water from a small pond and a tube well on its edge.
The altercation between the Jats and Dalits ended on Tuesday evening after the police, who had been posted at the mosque, intervened.
But tempers flared once again on Wednesday morning, and the Muslim community also became involved in the argument, said locals.
“The fight between the Dalit man and the Jats evolved into an issue about the mosque and Muslims in the village. Some members of the Jat community became involved and said that Hindus should not fight amongst themselves and (they should) unite against Muslims and our mosque,” said Majid Ahmed, a resident.
The Dalits in the village claimed that while there was an altercation between a member of their community and the Jats, they had not been involved in the stone-pelting that took place in the village on Wednesday.
“A Jat man was very rude to the young boy. The boy told him that the Jats only turn to the Dalits when they need something — support for the temple or votes. This led to a fight. But we didn’t take part in the stone-pelting. In fact, we locked ourselves inside our homes,” said Ravi Kumar, a resident.
While the Jats in the village admitted that the altercation at the temple had taken place on Tuesday night, they strongly denied allegations about instigating the violence.
“The women and children at our temple were praying and not disturbing anyone. But they started throwing stones at us and abusing us, (so) we retaliated. But the police only wants to take the side of the minority. The fact remains that a mosque and a temple can’t coexist like this. They will have to leave,” said Randeep Singh, a resident.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Muslims from the village is trying to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. “We will be going to his office and we will try and meet him,” they said.