Sunday, September 28, 2003
In Cong-ruled state, Bajrang Dal makes a village ‘Muslim-free’
AKLERA (RAJASTHAN), SEPT 27 It couldn't be less subtle. A bright saffron board welcomes you to the ‘‘Ideal Hindu Village’’, Mishroli. Nestled in picturesque green surroundings, the village has acquired this tag just this month.
The past 10 days have seen armed Bajrang Dal activists on the rampage, driving out about 25 Muslim families from their homes, ransacking their houses and setting them on fire. ‘‘This was never a Hindu village but they will make sure it becomes one,’’ says a distressed Iqbal Hussain as he tries to salvage the medicines in his Ayurveda dispensary. ‘‘Nobody wants to come back here, not after what we have been through.’’
Mishroli is at the epicentre of communal violence that has seen around 70 Muslim families of seven villages in Aklera leave their homes and migrate to neighbouring districts and Madhya Pradesh.
Bajrang Dal Suraksha Prabhari for Kota, Bharat Bhushan Sharma, warns: ‘‘We will create these Hindu villages which will run in accordance with our traditions and there will be full overall development here. They will surround Muslim-dominated pockets and if the Muslims create any public nuisance, they will have to pay the price. If they want to co-exist, they will have to live by our rules.’’
It all began on September 17. That morning, on a 45-odd-km stretch on National Highway 12, a ‘chakka jam’ by Bajrang Dal activists, angry at police arresting some people for not buying bus tickets, threw traffic out of gear. As police and the district administration desperately tried to manoeuvre their way through the streets, angry mobs walked down narrow village lanes in Aklera, identifying Muslim houses and tearing them down. ‘‘We saw them coming and ran into the fields to hide,’’ says Kanija Begum. ‘‘We saw them burn our houses and destroy the mosque nearby. As we saw the mosque crumble, we just ran away.’’
Next to Kanija Begum’s house in Gehunkheri village, the district administration is trying to reconstruct the mosque now. Sitting at his relative’s house in Aklera town, Siraj Mohammad says: ‘‘I look after the mosque and it is not easy for me to just walk back into this new thing they are building and pretend that nothing happened. Because it did.’’
According to the Muslims, they had told police they apprehended trouble on September 16 night itself, and had been promised forces by next morning. However, Home Minister Gulab Singh Shaktawat denies police was late in reacting. ‘‘If people file verbal complaints, police can’t act. And there was no report of a written complaint,’’ he says. So far, police have arrested 31 people and registered 28 complaints.
However, villagers allege that the masterminds, Devi Lal Meena and Kanwar Lal Meena, are still absconding. New Bajrang Dal recruits in Mishroli village blame everything on the Muslims who ‘‘killed a peacock on Janmashtami day’’. ‘‘Ever since there has been trouble,’’ says Bhoj Raj. ‘‘And then that Muslim bus driver took our activists to the police station saying we were not buying tickets. We were willing to pay but he wasn’t giving us the ticket.’’
The Bajrang Dal too blames police for the violence, with its Vibhag Sangathan Mantri Khushpal Singh Chauhan saying the problem started because they were ‘‘over-sensitive to the Muslims’’. ASP Jhalawar Ram Niwas Sharma denies this. ‘‘They were travelling without tickets and so the driver brought the bus to the Aklera police station where they attacked policemen.’’