News flashed in both print and electronic media since 20th instant said that local Hindus have thwarted the construction of a mosque in Kalalati village, which led to communal tension in the said village. The severity of the problem made the AIMMM send a fact-finding delegation to meet the affected people for their moral support as well as to ascertain the facts.
The delegation led by Mr Abdul Rashid Agwan, convener of AIMMM’s Delhi state unit and comprised of Mr Irfan Ahmad Khan, State Incharge (Haryana) of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind; Mr Mahtab Alam coordinator of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR); and Mr Nadim Ahmad of The Milli Gazette. The team left New Delhi early morning for the affected area reaching Jagadhari around 11AM, where it met Maulana Shakil Ahmad Nadwi, teacher of Madrasa Ma’had Rashidul Islamia and local correspondent of Rashriya Sahara Urdu daily, who effectively raised the issue in the national Urdu daily. Members of the group offered Jum’a prayers at the historic town of Budhiya, where it discussed in the afternoon various aspects of the episode with Peer Ahmad Hasan, a prominent personality of the area who has played a key role in pacifying the communal tension stoked by a handful of miscreants. Some Muslim activists of Jagadhari area also discussed the situation with the team. In the evening, the delegation met some members of the affected families at Jagadhari and Kudawa where they have taken temporary shelter due to fear of further assaults in their village. The team also met late at night the injured victims admitted at MM Hospital, Mullana. By 11 PM, the team started its journey back to Delhi. A visit to Kalalati village itself was not found advisable at this juncture on the advice of the people of the area where the police posse is said to be preventing the entry of any outsider into the village. However, the team members talked over mobile phones to two persons staying inside the village and ascertained the present conditions of safety and morale.
The team found out that Thakurpura-Kalalati is a small village located in Saha Block of Ambala District on the National Highway 73A, about 4-5 kilometres from the main road, falling in the area of Mullana Police Station. It has a population of over 400 families with a vast majority of Hindus, who hail mainly from Thakur, Gujjar, Kalal and Dalit castes. There are 11 Muslim families in the village. The total Muslim population of the village consists of 118 persons who belong to two extended families. Muslim families are living in the village for more than one hundred years and do not own land but have their own houses built long ago. Even the turmoil of Partition did not affect their lives due to the exemplary communal harmony among various communities of the area. These Muslim families depend for livelihood primarily on trading of cloths and other items and participate in agriculture on contract basis. Before the present episode, relations between Hindus and Muslims were always cordial and Muslims of the locality did not even shun donating for construction of temples in the village. There is a small piece of land used for Qabristan but so far the village had no mosque and congregational prayers were offered in a house.
The corollary of events that came to the notice of the visiting team was as follows: Muslims of Kalalati purchased around 2000 sq yards of land almost a year ago for the purpose of constructing a mosque. It was purchased against Rs. 350000 from one Krishan Lal who was verbally informed regarding the purpose of the purchase of the land but the fact was not mentioned in the land purchase deed. The transfer was in the name of Sabir Khan who bore a major part of the amount. In the third week of July, Muslims of the village resolved to start construction on the site. Amir of Jagadhari Tablighi Jamat visited the locality at the villagers’ invitation and defined the Qibla direction and led those present on the occasion in a prayer for an early completion of the mosque. After 2-3 days, when Muslims intended to lay the foundation-stone and start construction, a number of neighbouring Hindus assembled at the site and expressed their annoyance at the construction of a mosque in their village. Phulchand, Chetan, Raju, etc led this group. This created a tension in the locality and nearby villages and local Muslims approached elderly Hindus of the village, Sarpanch Ramsharan, local administration and Muslim dignitaries of the area for their intervention. Meanwhile, some activists of communal Hindu organisations also started visiting the village and meddling in the issue.
A group of Muslims, led by Peer Ahmad Hasan, commonly called as “Budhiya ke Peer”, visited the village on 13 August and settled the dispute by reaching a comprome that Muslims would undertake the desired construction only after the consent of the majority of local Hindus. Although Hindus demanded a written assurance to that effect but it was not conceded at that time. This settlement pacified the tension to a great extent. Seemingly, some Hindu activists did not appreciate this and started spreading a rumour that the construction of the mosque would lead to killing of cows in the area, even saying that a cow-head would be buried in the foundation of the mosque. A meeting of Hindu representatives of some 18 to 47 villages of the area, led by local Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena elements, assembled at the Government Primary School, Thakurpura-Kalalati, on 13 August. It resolved that no mosque will be allowed in the village and issued an ultimatum to the local Muslims to forthwith stop namaz, shave off their beards and stop wearing caps and if they are not willing to abide by these rules they must vacate the village by 18th of August or face dire consequences. Muslims’ social boycott was also declared forthwith. Local Police was present at the school on that occasion but did nothing to stop the proceedings.
This ultimatum created havoc in the area and Muslims and secular leaders started pressurizing the district administration and Police to intervene. On the instance of the local administration, the ultimatum was extended by two days. A few constables were deputed for the safety of the Muslim families of the village. Media also started taking note of the tense situation. Adamant to execute their ultimatum, around 250 Hindu activists entered the village from neighbouring as well as distant localities on 18th August. This terrified the small band of Muslims of the village. On the 22nd afternoon, at around 4 PM, an unprovoked and callous attack on Muslim families with swords, axes and lathis took place. The plank of the attack was an unsubstantiated episode said to have taken place in another village situated at around 4-5 kilometres from Kalalati, in which “Muslim boys” were accused to have beaten a 19-year-old Hindu youth called Omveer. This was the time when most of the elderly persons of these Muslim families were out of the village. However, those found at home were severally beaten up and wounded. Rulda Khan, the eldest Muslim of the village, faced near-fatal injury on his head and one arm by sword. He is presently said to be in coma at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigarh. Babu Khan, Shaukat Khan and Krishan Khan were also brutally wounded along with Kanti Bibi, a lady, and were admitted at the MM Hospital of Mullana for treatment. Muslim women were insulted and scolded by the hooligans. A lot of damage was inflicted upon properties and belongings of the unfortunate people. All this happened in the presence of police constables who did not intervene.
The damage to property and loss of household items has been estimated to be that of Rs 525,000. The family-wise details of loss are as follows:
S. No. Name Damage
1 Rulda Khan Wind-shield, tyres and other parts of his Armada jeep, two scooters, cycle, etc.
2 Roshan Khan No major damage
3 Ajmer Ali Wind-shield and tyres of his Armada jeep, doors (Rs 65000), seven ceiling fans, four pedestal fans, two water tanks, two Tulu pump motors, two “Kutti” machines, and other household items
4 Babu Khan Fridge, cooler, two diesel engines, doors (Rs 60000), two Kutti machines, Almirah, TV, double bed and other household items
5 Haji Sabir Khan Window panes and doors (Rs 100,000+), pedestal fans, tin shade, water tank and other household items
6 Nanhe Khan Motor cycle, Utensils, water pipe & tape
7 Resham Khan Two fridges, two coolers, double-bed, bughee, washing machine, kutti machine, diesel engine, water pipes and tapes and other household items
8 Zeer Ali Water tanks and other household items
9 Basit Ali Two sewing machines and other household items
10 Babu Khan (second) Doors and other household items
The event was thoroughly covered in local media and Muslims in various parts of the country came to know about this heinous crime against innocent people through reports in the Urdu press. Statements of Muslim leaders of various shades started appearing in newspapers, which perhaps have attracted attention of the state administration and that of the chief minister of Haryana and various measures were subsequently taken up. First of all, an FIR was lodged against 23 named and several anonymous miscreants, about 12 persons have been arrested and outsiders have been prevented from entering the village, injured were admitted to hospitals, additional police force was deployed in the village, some damaged household items were replaced and food was provided to a few Muslim men and women who remained in the village in spite of the nightmarish event, although most Muslims have left the village for safer places, fearing further assaults.
Following are seven issues that must be addressed to immediately,
Local Muslims do not feel safe in the village anymore. Their complaint is that they were assaulted in the presence of the police, so there is no guarantee that such mishap would not take place in future. They are thinking to migrate to some other safe place. This might lead them to bear heavy losses of property as their houses will be left behind or sold for pittance. Moreover, this might become a cause of chain reaction in other villages of the region where Muslims are living in small numbers among overwhelming Hindu majority. Miscreants are still chasing younger members of the affected Muslim families for harming them. They have tried to terrorise even the injured people at MM Hospital at Mullana in the night of 23rd August.
Although affected families are managing their routine expenses for the time being, the communal tension and social boycott for almost a month has totally stopped their trading and agricultural work. This would lead to unprecedented hardships for these unfortunate families. So some cash relief would certainly become crucial in the next few weeks.
The total loss of property and household items has been estimated to be in the range of Rs 525,000. Although the administration has replaced some of the damaged items by new ones such as water tanks, fridges, coolers, etc but this measure is inadequate as compared to the actual damage. Therefore, the process of registering the overall damage and official compensation at par with victims of communal riots elsewhere in the country should be assured.
4. Legal Measures
Police has filed an FIR with 23 named and several anonymous miscreants and some of them have been subsequently arrested. However, the leading accused such as Chetan, Jagmal, Ajit, etc are still at large. It is heard that the local administration will take due action only after the forthcoming state elections which are scheduled for 18th October. The question is: if something untoward happens again, who will be responsible? The extremist Hindu leaders are pressurising the administration to release the arrested offenders. They organised a demonstration on 26th August for this purpose. It is the responsibility of the administration to thwart such undue pressures. The most unfortunate part of the entire episode is that the meeting in which an ultimatum was issued to Muslims for vacating the village was held in the premises of a government primary school and even a holiday of the school was declared on the day. Action should be taken by the government against the head of the school and other staff members who not only closed it for the day but allowed communal elements to hold their meeting with full fanfare with tent, public address system, inflammatory speeches, threatening slogans and the like. The concerned SHO should also be taken to task who could not apprehend the explosive situation and failed to send sufficient deployment at the critical time.
5. Social Boycott
The ongoing social boycott of Muslims will affect the life and economy of the Muslim families who belong to the village for over a century. Some social activists of the area should take up the task of changing the situation as early as possible.
6. Communal Harmony
The episode has badly affected communal harmony of the area, which remained intact even through the troubled times of Partition. Constant efforts are required rebuild communal harmony and normalise the situation. Religious personalities and groups from both the communities should become proactive for altering the social damage.
7. Construction of the Mosque
The last but not the least is the issue of the construction of a mosque in Kalalati village. Diehard efforts are needed for making conditions conducive for the desired and rightful construction of a place worship for Muslims. Failing which, it is apprehended that construction of mosques anywhere in villages of the region will become difficult in future.
Abdul Rashid Agwan
Irfan Ahmad Khan
2 September 2009