As Durga Puja, which is celebrated with fanfare by Hindus across the country came to a close, a visarjan procession in the bylanes of Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh came under siege by the Muslim residents of the area. Stones were pelted, Hindus were attacked and injured, some, allegedly even with swords.
The police have arrested 8 Muslim residents who were actively involved in the stone-pelting. Several others are absconding and the Balrampur police have deployed 4 units to look for the miscreants.
When OpIndia spoke to the police, the Additional Superintendent of Police expressed suspicion that the entire thing may have been pre-planned. When one looks at the video, one is convinced that the scale of mobilisation cannot be spontaneous. The police believe that the attack may have happened because the procession did not switch the music off while passing the local Mosque.
Suraj Pandey, one of the Hindu victims, however, has a different take. Suraj says that he was attacked with a sword and is currently injured. Speaking to OpIndia, Suraj was convinced that the Muslim residents of the locality had meticulously pre-planned this entire siege and the attack had nothing to do with the music not being stopped near the Mosque.
Suraj Pandey, a resident of the area is the one who had filed the complaint against 25 members of the Muslim community who had allegedly instigated and orchestrated this attack against the Hindu community.
According to Suraj, on the day the Hindus came under siege, he was walking through the same lane much before the procession was taken out. Suraj was walking through the same lane and was crossing house where a certain Zulfikar stays. According to him, while he crossed the house in the morning, Zulfikar threw a stone at him. This ensued in a mild argument which was then calmed down by Zulfikar’s old mother who asked Suraj to forgive the ‘young boys’ who were just doing mischief.
Suraj on his part paid heed to what Zulfikar’s mother was saying and did not make much of the incident. He proceeded home to prepare for the visarjan procession that was to be taken out later that day. “If I had told my people about this, maybe we would not have come under attack later. This was all pre-planned”, Suraj said. When the mother pleaded with Suraj to let go of the incident, he thought it must have been really been young boys were simply playing mischief, but the doubts were sowed. In retrospect, Suraj seems to believe that the incident was the first indication that the Muslim community was planning to attack the Hindu community and had started collecting stones and weapons in a pre-planned manner.
Suraj says that every year for the past several years, the Durga Puja visarjan procession has followed the same route with no deviation whatsoever. In the previous years, there has been no animosity between the Hindus and Muslims of the areas other than minor arguments that have always been resolved and ignored. Flummoxed as to why this year, the Muslim community decided to attack the Hindus, Suraj tells a scary tale of what ensued that fateful evening.
He claims that before the procession, the members of the Muslim community pretended to support the Hindus and display ‘brotherhood’, as they do every year. He says that in that locality, the Hindus and Muslims used to sit together and the Hindus used to even share ‘prasad’ with the Muslims. In fact, this time too, before they started pelting stones at the Hindus, several Muslims had walked with the Maa Durga murti till they started attacking the Hindus.
This year, however, the story was different as per Suraj’s claims. As soon as the procession turned the corner, at first the Muslim community started allegedly throwing garbage at the Hindus who were participating in the Durga Puja procession. Within minutes of throwing garbage, they started throwing stones, sticks and rods. Suraj says the stones were not just small stones, but heavy bolsters too.
Recalling the ordeal, Suraj tells OpIndia that in the process, he was attacked with a sword. Allegedly chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, stones and sticks came raining down on the Hindus from all quarters including the roof of the Mosque. While Muslim men, women and children, including “Mullas from the Mosques” continued to rain stones on the Hindus, the Hindus hid for their lives. “We had nothing except Maa Durga’s murti, what could we do”, says Suraj.
Upon being asked whether the Muslim community was enraged because the Hindus did not stop the music while crossing the Mosque, Suraj rubbishes the claims flatly.
He says that every year, the Hindus ensure that the music is stopped while crossing the Mosque out of respect. They have set up a divider near the Mosque. He says that while the procession is away from the divider, the Hindus usually dance and sing to their heart’s content. Upon reaching the divider, the music is switched off and then resumed once the Mosque is crossed. This time, however, the Hindus did not get the opportunity to switch the music off at all. Even before the Hindus could switch the music off, the Muslim community allegedly started throwing garbage at the Hindus and soon, started raining stones.
Suraj names three Muslim locals as the masterminds of the attack. Maqbool Haji, Najim and Langad. He says there are several others from the same area, but he doesn’t know them too well.
Suraj Pandey claims that he and his fellow villagers have no idea why the Muslims did what they did this year. “If they chant Hindustan Murdabad won’t we feel bad”, he says. “Nobody knows what is in the other person’s heart. We still don’t know why they attacked us”, he says.
Suraj, however, is satisfied with the action taken by Balrampur police. He says they are doing their job adequately and have arrested 8 people thus far, with others being on the run.
The police had released a press note that said that a complaint had been filed against 24 named people and several unnamed individuals. There are 4 units of the police who are currently looking for the absconding accused. The police have also said that the law and order situation is under control in the area and the visarjan was conducted peacefully after police intervention.