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Riot-hit take shelter in Udaipur mosque

Special Correspondent

The strife began allegedly after a fight between two anti-social elements

JAIPUR: Five hundred Muslim families from the tehsil town Sarada, that witnessed violence early this week between Muslims and Meena tribals, have taken shelter in Savina mosque in Udaipur. After unruly mobs allegedly burnt down houses of 70 Muslim families on July 26 in Sarada, the Muslims in the neighbouring Chawand, Kejad, Sallada, Mahuwada, Virpura and Sonaria, also in Udaipur district, too chose to move out.

The attack on Muslim families came a day after a ‘ Maha Padav' (big siege) organised by the Sangh Parivar collecting thousands of armed persons. On July 26, the crowds gathered in Sarada in response to the beating of drums in the morning. A shop was looted and the house of retired principal Ahmed Hussain attacked. When the mob entered his house, Mr. Hussain allegedly fired in the air in self-defence and that was used as an excuse for instigating the local population against the Muslims.

As the Muslim community sought protection, the local administration arranged for their shifting to Udaipur. However, once they reached Udaipur, the administration left them to fend for themselves. The houses of Muslims in Sarada which were not yet burnt were looted after the families left.

The strife has its origin in a fight on July 2 between two anti-social elements, Shahzad and Mohan Meena. Later Shahzad, with the help of two others, allegedly kidnapped and killed Mohan. There are a number of criminal cases registered against both. The July 2 fight was allegedly over illegal supply of liquor.

“When the news of Mohan's kidnapping reached certain people, they found it an opportunity to create a rift between tribals and Muslims,” says Ramesh Nandwana, an activist in Udaipur, who was part of a seven-member PUCL team which looked into the incident.

“A day after the murder, BJP leaders reached Sarada and started a hate campaign and instigated the tribals to destroy the shops of the Muslim community there. Consequently the shops owned by Muslims were burnt down,” Mr. Nandwana observes.

The local BJP leaders demanded immediate arrest of Shahzad and threatened a ‘ Maha Padav' if the demand was not met. “However even after the arrest of Shahzad on July 19, the Sangh Parivar supporters went ahead with the ‘ Maha Padav',” Mr. Nandwana notes.

In the wake of the arrest the district administration organised a meeting between the representatives of the Muslims and the tribals. The tribals demanded expulsion of Shahzad and two others from the Muslim samaj as well as from Sarada village and an announcement of this in the newspapers. The Muslim community agreed to this and did likewise.

“The matter should have ended there. The mischief makers arranged vehicles for collecting the tribals in and around Sarada villages on July 18. This gathering decided on a ‘ Maha Padav' on July 25,” Mr. Nandwana reveals.

The Muslim community of Sarada, on receiving information on July 24 about the move to attack their houses, informed the senior district officers and political leaders. “The administration deemed it fit to disarm the Muslim community, but did not pay any heed to the request of increasing their security,” Mr. Nandwana says.

The PUCL team, which comprised Vinita Shrivastava, Arun Vyas, Shri Ram Arya, Shyam Lal Dangi, Karan Singh and Hemlata, besides Mr. Nandwana, asserts that there is “not an iota of evidence that the Muslim samaj ever supported Shahzad. On the contrary, the Muslims of Sarada took out a procession demanding arrest of Shahzad.

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