On Monday evening, Atali village was a pale shadow of its former self. Hundreds of residents had fled — Muslim families, fearing violence, and Jat youth, fearing arrests.
Two days ago, on Saturday, police had started the process of rounding up the accused in connection with the rioting on May 25 in the village. Many people were detained, and eventually 10 were arrested. As news of the arrests spread, many Jats started leaving the village Sunday.
“There is no point in staying. Names of men in our family have been included in the complaints by Muslims because they want revenge. They were not involved in the violence. The police is biased against our community,” claimed Kripa, whose two sons have left Atali.
Now, only women, children and the elderly are left in most Jat homes.
Violence erupted in the village on May 25 as 2,000 armed men allegedly set fire to the only mosque in the village as well as Muslim homes and shops. Fifteen people were injured and 150 Muslims fled the village, camping at Ballabhgarh police station till June 3. Another incident of violence took place last week when at least four people were injured during stone pelting between two communities.
“Police are harassing young men in our village. Muslims have said there were almost 2,000 people accused in the violence. That is not true,” alleged Satish Chaudhury.
Police officials maintained the arrests were being made after following the due process. “We have a list of those who have been accused in the FIRs. We are verifying their involvement and making arrests only in cases where there is evidence of their involvement,” said Subhash Yadav, Commissioner of Police (Faridabad).
Apart from relying on testimonies of victims, police are also tracing the location of cellphones during the violence and getting eyewitness accounts from police officers present during the riots, said officials.
“Violence was primarily perpetrated by a some youths… Now that we have started making arrests, they have all fled. But we will trace them soon,” said a senior police officer who did not wish to be named.
While the arrests pertain to rioting in the village in May, many Muslims fled the village after the stone pelting incident. “Our homes were burnt and we were attacked… The second time, it happened in the presence of the police. There is no guarantee of our safety in Atali. So we decided to leave,” said Nizam Ali, a resident.
The locality in the village where Muslims used to live is now completely empty. Homes, charred from the rioting in May, have been hastily locked. The only people who remain in the area are security personnel.
Meanwhile, police said that Jats from Atali held a ‘mahapanchayat’ at an adjacent village and demanded the immediate release of those arrested.