Eid al-Adha festival was muted in tribal town of Harsul that had witnessed riots in July. Violence had broken out in the small ghat-side town about 30 km from Trimbakeshwar in Nashik after the death of a 22-year old tribal youth Bhagirath Tulsiram Choudhari. “Every Eid, even a commoner like me buys around 20 litres of milk to make sheer khurma (vermicelli milk pudding) to treat fellow villagers. It used to be a grand affair but riots altered everything. After the July violence there is a sense of distrust amongst the two communities and therefore my family stayed away from celebrations,” Pervez Shaikh told The Indian Express. Shaikh’s paan shop was torched, his home ransacked and Rs 87,000 robbed in the two-day riots.
Police are yet to file a chargesheet against the arrested accused, Rizwan Sheikh, in whose field Choudhari’s body was found. Predominately a tribal town, Harsul is home to over 200 Muslim families that constitute the local business community.
On July 14, riots broke out after the tribals demanded a fresh probe in Choudhari’s death alleging it was murder and not suicide as initially claimed by police. Several locals and even policemen including the Additional Superintendent of Police Prashant Mohite, Deputy Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar Mundhe, and Assistant Police Inspector Kirtikar in charge of the Harsul police station were injured in the violence.
The next day, around 125 Muslim families fled and took refuge in neighbouring Nashik city. A month later, the town was still trying to limp back to normalcy, when the runaway families started returning. Loans were piling up and there was little scope of alternate employment. Starting afresh was an uphill task. With no monetary support coming from the government, they felt cheated.”
“While males returned within a week following the riots, our families returned only after a month. With no employment or help from the government, we could no longer be a burden on our relatives and friends, and decided to return despite unfavorable circumstances”e,” Shaikh added.”
“I used to earn around Rs 600 every day from my paan shop. I had saved around Rs 87,000 for my son’s admission in an engineering college but the money was robbed by rioters. I had to take around Rs 90,000 loan. With the loan money, I paid part of my son’s fee and started my shop again,” he adds.
Toufik Shaikh’s home was ransacked and household items were stolen. The Indian Express had visited the town during the riots and Toufik was one of the few who had stayed back in the village to monitor the situation.” “During night, any little noise wakes up my wife and children. My wife is suffering from depression and refuses to venture out. She remains confined to home,” Toufik say”. “They ransacked my home, stole household items including a refrigerator and a LED TV. Faeces were seen in our sacks of grains. Many leaders visited our town but today when we actually need their help to get back on track, there is no one. We feel cheat”d,” he says.
On Eid al-Adha, Toufik did not have any celebration planned, though he made the traditional sacrifice. “The entire town used to come to life with Eid celebration and we used to distribute sweets to everyone but now we view everyone with suspicion. There is a trust deficit,” he says. “Deewar ke daag nikal jayega par dil ke zakaam nahi (Stains on walls can be removed but not scars from our hearts),” he says.