June 03, 2015

India: Atali Speaks - A report on communal violence in Atali is a village in Ballabhgarh Tehsil of Faridabad District of Haryana (by Ravi Nitesh)

Atali is a village in Ballabhgarh Tehsil of Faridabad District of Haryana, where communal violence erupted on 25 May 2015.

by Ravi Nitiesh
Background of Dispute and Timeline:

People claim that this mosque is around 50 years old and situated on waqf land. Earlier there was a tin shed mosque on this land. However, its construction was pending. Later when construction was started in the year 2009 with a view of expansion and completion of structure, people started to protest and claimed that land belongs to Panchayat. Later the matter went to local court in the year 2009 and though pillars were ready, a stay order was received to stop the further construction till final order. Later session court in its order in April 2015 maintained that land belongs to waqf board (vide Gazette notification dated Nov 21, 1970) and belongs to muslims as per revenue records from 1954-55 to till date.During court proceedings, former sarpanch Daya Ram stated that tin shed exists in the said land and muslims offer prayers on the same. After this order, Haryana Waqf Board also stated that construction work of mosque can be carried out. Construction of mosque was started.

Mosque in Atali Village that is main cause of dispute
21st May: Construction started, local villagers interrupted and stopped and then a panchayat in presence of local police administration that includes DSP and SHO also, was convened. A mediation was done and it was decided to carry construction.
22nd May: Linter on some portion was completed, but workers were stopped to work. Even few machines were stopped by force. Half linter was completed, half shuttering was completed. Police was deployed and construction re started.

25th May: Around at 5.45 PM, as mosque was under construction, people gathered at a house that was in front of mosque, to offer Asar prayers. It was alleged by residents that at that time, policemen who were deployed left quickly. In the same time, when people were preparing for Namaaz, a mob consisting large number of people of hindu community attacked upon them. It created a chao and noise every where. This mob, not only attacked on people, but also on mosque and on other houses of muslims in village. In total , around 100 families of muslims live in village. Attackers were lased with weapons like knife, farsa/axe, lathis, gas cylinders and petrol bombs. When people get trapped, they ran inside their houses and started calling police for help. Despite the police deployment on mosque, police was not available and all these things continued for around 45 minutes to 1 hour. After an hour, police reached in village. Till then, many were got injured, stone pelting was continued, and even houses were burnt. When police reached in village, it did not try to control the village situation; instead it helped muslims to save their lives by bringing them in police vehicles from out of village. All these muslims left the village with police and got refuge at Ballabhgarh Police Station that is some 12 km away from the village. Victims alleged that after bringing all of them to police station, our houses were open to burn and the mob started looting and burning houses again while police did not stop them.

Signs of stone pelting, stampede and fear: House of a muslim family where people were gathered for Asar Prayer

Present Status of Migrated People: Around 400 people are present at Ballabhgarh Police Station having separate canopies for men and women. Mediation is continued since 26th May but did not reach at any point yet. Everyday, there is meeting with victims, community members, administration and local political representatives. These people are living under tent shed where one canopy was arranged by local administration while other by community well wishers and local social workers.

Approx 400 People have taken temporary refuge at Ballabhgarh Police Station, 12 km. from Atali village

Present Status of Village: When I entered in village, it was completely silent with heavy deployment of police and RAF at entrance. There was heavy deployment of police and RAF. It was told that three battalions of RAF deployed. All muslims have already fled from village and took refuge at Ballabhgarh police station. We talked with few hindu families but most of the person who are living in village denied to talk anything. Others told that they do not belong to this village or tried to justify that they were not in village on the day it all happened.

A burnt kitchen of a muslim house in Atali village

Political Angle: Politicians exploited issue of this mosque for political gains. Present hindu sarpanch is believed to be pro-muslims as he advocated for construction of mosque. With approx 400-600 muslim votes in a village where many other caste and subcaste are divided is a benefit for polarization. Also, elections of sarpanch are also due in coming months.

Voices from hindu community members of village: During the village visit, it was found that only Hindu families were present there. We talked with people. Most of the people denied to talk anything, however few women talked with us. With extreme hatred and anger in their words, most of them were determined on the fact that Muslims should not be allowed to build mosque at any cost. They also alleged that few stone pelting were done by Muslims too. It was also told by an elderly woman who did not disclose her name that one boy Naushad was eloped with a hindu girl and few months back he sent a card of function where they were about to celebrate the birth of child. If such things will happen, how we all can bear this insult. All these things are result of such types of activities. Another woman claimed that while he was doing prayers in the temple that is situated just adjacent to mosque, he got hurt by a stone thrown by Muslims. However, most of the youths who were in village were extremely motivated by hatred and anger. In contrast of this, we also met with few Hindu shopkeepers who were unhappy over what was happened and they put the fingers towards youths who do not have sense and tolerance.

Role of Police Suspected: It was also told that local SHO named Babulal left the venue just before attack on 25 May. One victim told that he was also saying to someone that you have two hours time to do whatever you can.

It was told by many that attackers were in large numbers. Though numbers cannot be confirmed, but by people’s statements, it seems to be around 1000-2000 people and may include people of other villages. People locked themselves in their houses, police when came, helped only migration, nothing else.
Even after the violence erupted on 25th May and police were deployed and all muslims were fled from village; another day, when a 60 year old person went to village to look for his animals, he got killed by mob again.

Though dispute already existed but such a huge scale violence was never seen in the village earlier. Around 15-20 families destroyed everything as their houses fully burnt, damaged, looted. Almost all victims claimed that they were unable to receive police help in the time it was needed. Response time of police was so delayed and even in its presence, stone pelting was done, but no action was taken by police.

Approximation of Loss: Around 18-20 houses were burnt. Vehicles, domestic appliances, electric meters damaged. Around a dozen injured. People have taken temporary refuge at police station. Most of the looted houses are still open and odor of burning still coming from them.

Torched vehicles in a muslim house, A board named Ali’s Residency can be seen

Demands of Victims:
Construction of mosque
Arrest of accused persons
Compensation for loss
Suspension of guilty policemen
Establishing a permanent police booth in village

Rounds of meetings are in process since the day it happened. Victims and community leaders and political representatives along with administration are trying to mediate to make the situation normal, under control and to ensure safe return of Muslims. On Sunday, Local MP and MLAs along with administration tried to mediate again, however they did not reach on any solution. Though few claims that mediation is held on the point of arrest of accused persons.

People in meeting at Ballabhgarh Police Station , Haryana

Overall analysis:

It is observed that there is a deep hatred among people of both communities for each other. Muslims, being in less numbers have been exploited and forced to migrate from village through creating a sense of fear. Construction of mosque is the main dispute that is continued since many years but such kind of violence was not expected by anyone. With the numbers of attackers and weapons available with them, it is clear that the attack was well planned and other Hindu communities of other villages were also involved. Withdraw of police force only for some duration, just before the attack gives a strong reason to probe involvement of police at some extent. From 25th May to 1st June, no arrest was made and therefore a sense of insecurity was only increased.

Hope Survives

Children playing in temporary shelter at Ballabhgarh PS. Smiles find its own way even in extreme sufferings.

This report is prepared by Ravi Nitesh and based on his visit at Ballabhgarh PS and Atali village and his talk with people there.
Ravi Nitesh, (Founder-Mission Bhartiyam, Freelance writer, Other Associations- Gandhi Global Family, All India Peace Mission, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism, South Asian Fraternity)
Contact: ravinitesh@gmail.com Twitter: #ravinitesh