Twenty-seven men from the Muslim community have been arrested, among them three under the stringent National Security Act (NSA), for allegedly leading communal attacks in Muzaffarnagar’s Purbaliyan village on August 21 and 24 — a fallout of a fight between youths in the locality, according to the police.
While members of Purbaliyan’s Hindu Pal community claimed to be at the receiving end of violence, those from the Muslim community alleged they were picked up arbitrarily and arrested, or were forced to surrender amid increasing police pressure on their families.
Purbaliyan is among villages that saw skirmishes during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
Visiting the communally sensitive village on August 25, BJP MP from Muzaffarnagar Sanjeev Balyan had advocated invoking the NSA. He had said, “Such severe action will be taken that no one will have the courage to misbehave like this…the NSA will be pressed against primary offenders…”
On Tuesday, Balyan told The Indian Express that he had recommended to the administration strictest action against the accused. He said: “The (2013) riots began here with the killing of four Hindus. What took place on August 21 was not a fight between boys but an attack inside the mohalla. On August 24, there was another attack in the presence of a police inspector, who was also attacked. After these incidents, it emerged that the Pal community is constantly harassed in this Muslim-majority village.”
People from the Pal community even wanted to leave after the attacks, Balyan claimed.
Mansoorpur SHO K P S Chahal denied that any police officer was assaulted.
Explaining the sequence of events, Chahal said that a fight broke out “between some Muslim and Hindu boys” on August 21 in which a Muslim boy was left injured. A group of people from the community subsequently went to the home of one Hindu boy and allegedly began assaulting people. “An FIR was filed but villagers collectively decided that the issue should be dealt with after Eid, the following day,” the SHO said.
“But before it could be resolved, on August 24, one Shamsher claimed that his domestic help was beaten by Hindus. He collected a large group to attack them. Luckily, an inspector was at the spot and the attack was averted,” Chahal said.
The families of those arrested denied perpetrating the violence. Eight people were arrested on August 24. The others surrendered in the following days.
“On August 24, the police picked up anyone they could find on the street,” Hajra, 55, alleged. “They came every day and harassed our families – 19 people surrendered to end this (harassment). The police stopped coming only three days ago.”
On September 16, NSA was invoked against Shamsher; and against his nephews Mehboob and Aftab three days later. The police said around 10 people are still absconding.
The NSA was invoked on Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate’s orders – an official in the district administration said the primary reason was “creation of communal tension”.
Two FIRs have been filed so far — one filed on August 21 names 12 people, the second on August 24 names 25.
Shalu, 19, sister of Sumit Kumar, in whose name both FIRs have been filed, claimed that a group of Muslim youths beat her brother on August 21. Trying to help him, she also received injuries on stomach and legs, she said. “The issue could have been resolved by 3 pm on August 24, but before that some 100-150 of them, including children, came to our home and assaulted even a police inspector who was there to take my report,” she alleged.
Mehtab, whose brother Zulfikar, 70, and a nephew were arrested said the August 21 incident was a fight between five or six minor boys during a game of cricket – and it just escalated from there.