New Delhi: In what was initially a verbal spat between two groups over loud DJ music during Janmashtami celebrations in Eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district, soon acquired a communal colour on Saturday night, resulting in the death of a person named, Sumit, a mosque being vandalised and scores of shops belonging to Muslims looted.
On Monday, six people were arrested by the police, which had registered a case of causing hurt and rioting. A large police deployment has also been made in the neighbourhood, even as the locals largely blame police ‘negligence’ for the incident snowballing into communal violence as well the ‘irresponsible’ role played by a section of the local media for giving it a communal colour.
The incident took place in Patel Nagar of Barhaj, 28 km from the district headquarters, after midnight Saturday, when people were celebrating Janmashtami. As per the police, Mannu Jaiswal, 52, asked some people celebrating Janmashtami in a pandal (tent) to turn down the music. However, there was a heated argument followed by an altercation, after which someone called the police. Later, six to eight men barged into Mannu’s house and attacked him with iron rods and sticks. Mannu’s sons, Sumit and Sachin, and his wife, rushed to help him but were also attacked. Sumit, 23, reportedly died on the way to hospital.
“The clash broke out between Pradyuman Gupta and Mannu Jaiswal first then Pradyuman called his friends in which both Hindu and Muslims were there, so there is nothing like a communal clash," Barhaj's Station House (SO) Shiv Shankar Chaubey told Newsclick.
He said the police arrested the six accused on Monday, including Pradyuman Gupta.
"This is not a communal incident rather a group fight. People should not pay attention to rumours. Six accused have been arrested under Indian Penal Code (IPC) 302, 147, 148, 323, 504, 506 and 34 IPC. The accused names are Pradyuman Gupta, Durgesh Gupta, Chedi Maddheshiya, Ifftekhar Ahmad, Fayaz and Haider Ali,” Chaubey said, adding that "the accused who have been arrested do not have any criminal record.
Locals Blame Police ‘Negligence’
Newsclick approached some local residents to know the sequence of events that night. A businessman in Barhaj, on the condition of anonymity, blamed the local media for giving a Hindu-Muslim angle to the incident which was a mere skirmish between two groups.
"The incident took place on Saturday midnight. A person named Pradyuman, son of Ramji, was celebrating Janmashtami in a pandal and was playing loud DJ music in front of Mannu’s house, who went there and asked him to stop playing music or decrease the volume. Pradyuman did not pay heed to his request and continued the music in full volume. After this Mannu dialed 100. The police reached the spot and the matter was sorted out. Everything was peaceful, but Pradyuman brought five-six friends (both Hindu-Muslims) and went to Mannu’s house after which a fight took place and Mannu and his family members, including his wife and sons, Sumit and Sachin, were beaten up. Sumit was later declared dead by the doctors. But people spread rumours that Muslims killed a Hindu with a knife etc, which is not true," he said. The post-mortem report also suggests that Sumit died because of head injury.
‘Mosque Vandalised, Muslim Shops Looted’
Blaming police negligence, he said: "The incident took place on Saturday night and police forces were deployed on Sunday afternoon. Had the district administration landed up in the morning, the matter would not have gone out of hand. Muslim shops would not have been looted and the mosque would not have been vandalised by the mob that gathered in the morning.”
"The next day (Sunday) there was shutdown in the area and shops belonging to Muslims were targeted by the mob. Four shops of Muslims were looted worth Rs 30 lakh on Sunday morning. A vegetable market where most shops are run by Muslims was also looted, along with the fish where shops belong to poor Muslims,” said a local person, adding that “a mosque at old Barhaj was also vandalised and several religious books were torn by the mob.”
As a result, the situation is tense and the Muslim community not only in Barhaj but also in neigbouring village like Paina, Gaura is living in fear, he added.