It was stone-pelting on a march of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), allegedly raising provocative slogans while passing through Begum Bagh here, that brought the Ujjain district administration to the Muslim-dominated locality on December 26. Abdul Rafeeq’s house was razed in the action that followed. His family of 19 has since then been sheltered in one room of her house by his neighbour Meera Bai, who agrees with Rafeeq that there was no reason for the police to pull down his two-storey home.
A daily wager, who built the house over the past 35 years on a patta alloted to him by the government, Rafeeq says the police were looking for two women, identified as Heena and Yasmeen, allegedly caught on video pelting stones at the BJYM morcha from Meera’s roof on December 25. When they realised Meera was a Hindu, Rafeeq says, they turned to his house, which adjoins hers, not giving any time to his wife Nafeesa and two daughters-in-law to retrieve anything. His family, including 10 children, were left destitute in a matter of 30 minutes.
Meera accepts Heena, her tenant, was captured hurling stones, and says she “fled” that night itself. When the authorities came the next day, she says, she begged them not to raze her house, adding, “Mere ghar se nikle toh udhar ghus gaye (They left my house only to enter that one).” Yasmeen, a mother of two who also works as a daily wager, has been arrested and charged with attempt to murder. Seventeen others have been booked, 10 of them under the stringent NSA.
While three FIRs have been registered — by Abdul Shakir, a resident of Begum Bagh, by the BJYM’s Navdeep Singh Raghuvanshi, and by a trust of the nearby Bharat Mata Temple — the police say they have evidence only against residents of Begum Bagh so far.
According to District Collector Asheesh Singh, the demolition drive was meant to hurt “criminals who resort to such acts of stone-pelting” economically. He added that while Heena and Yasmeen were indeed pelting stones from Meera’s terrace, Yasmeen lived at Rafeeq’s house.
Asked why no action had been taken on the complaint against the BJYM, the District Collector said, “The residents claimed that the clashes erupted as those in the rally hurled abuses and chanted offensive slogans, but they have not been able to come up with any concrete evidence. We are ready to take action if any video proving it is brought to our notice.”
In a statement to the media following demands for an independent probe into what had happened in Ujjain, Home Minister Narottam Mishra had said, “Jahan se patthar aayenge, wahin se toh nikaale jaayenge (They will have to be removed from where the stones came).”
Several incidents of violence following rallies carried out by Hindu right-wing groups have been reported in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region recently. In Mandsaur, the police have registered an FIR against five people, who allegedly tried to bring down a mosque in Dorana village, while taking out a rally to collect donations for construction of the Ram temple. On Tuesday, clashes were reported in Indore following a similar cash-collection drive, with the police booking four people.
At Begum Bagh in Ujjain, there is an unsettling silence, with the police deployed all over.
Says Nafeesa, “I pleaded with the two women constables that we were not involved in the pelting, but they simply turned to me and said, ‘Had you been involved, you would have been behind bars’, and continued the demolition.” Rafeeq says they had been gathering items for the wedding of his granddaughter, and found some of their belongings later floating in the gutter nearby.
Yasmeen’s daughters, meanwhile, are running around to get their mother bail. Elder daughter Reshma says, “My mother was not the one hurling stones. Had she been involved, she could have escaped as well. We just want to see that she is safe and well once.”