On February 9, six days before this part of Uttar Pradesh votes, 17-year-old Vishal of Nayagaon village in Bijnor district had an argument with Mohammed Iqbal of neighbouring Pedda village on who would be their next MLA. In the heat of the argument, the Jat youth slapped Iqbal, escalating the already strained relationship between the two villages and, police say, resulting in murder the next day. A massive police force is deployed here now, like after the September 16 incident when three Muslim men were shot dead allegedly by Jats of nearby villages, following allegations of eve-teasing by boys of one community against girls of the other in Pedda village.
The FIR at Kotwali Police Station says that Iqbal, along with seven others, killed Vishal and left his father Sanjay Singh seriously injured. Iqbal, a former pradhan of Pedda, has been arrested, while another accused Anees has been detained. Incidentally, those named in the FIR, apart from Iqbal, are relatives of the three who died in the September violence. Some of them are also witnesses in that case. The wife of one of the accused in the case though — Suchi, married to Aishwarya Chowdhary — is the BJP candidate from Bijnor. A case has been registered in the February 10 incident under IPC Sections 302 (murder), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 307 (attempt to murder) and sections of rioting.
Vishal and Sanjay were attacked around 7 pm near a government tubewell that the two had gone to switch off. Sanjay, who is admitted in hospital, says the men first hit his son, and when he went to save him, attacked him with a sharp object on the head. “I saw Iqbal brandishing a country-made pistol. Vishal told me to run away, and I fled,” says Sanjay. He claims that as he was running, chased by the men, he heard three gunshots. “I should not have left Vishal alone,” he adds.
Emergency Medical Officer Dr Ram Kumar said postmortem showed bullet marks on Vishal’s body as well as abrasions on his thighs. Sanjay, who had received five incisive wounds, was out of danger, he added. On Saturday, around 200 people staged a protest on the Bijnor main road for five hours demanding justice and compensation for Vishal’s family, leaving only after Iqbal was arrested.
While the SHO, Kotwali, insisted “there is no correlation between the incident of September 16 and the current incident”, UP DGP Javeed Ahmed said it couldn’t be ruled out. He pointed out that the same two villages and common characters were involved in Saturday’s violence. City Kotwali police station officers told The Sunday Express that police had filed a chargesheet against 29 persons after the September incident and all are still in jail. After procuring permission from the Election Commission, the Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday announced Rs 20 lakh for the deceased and Rs 5 lakh for the injured.