Ever since the ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to power and Narendra Modi is all set to become Prime Minister of India for the second consecutive term, Muslims of Naya Bans in Bulandshahr district have been gripped by fear. They are considering leaving the area where they were born, grew up and have gained their assets.
Naya Bans, around 28 km from district headquarter Bulandshahr, is a village with 4,000 people, of whom 450 are Muslims. It is also home to Yogesh Raj, district convener of the Bajrang Dal, a key accused in the mob violence in Bulandshahr, in which a police inspector and a civilian were killed. Many Muslims of this village have packed up and left for Muslim-majority regions. Tension has been brewing in the village after Hindus associated with the ruling BJP were seen bursting firecrackers and chanting slogans like 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ to the sound of a DJ. Meanwhile, there are many who want to relocate, but can’t afford to do so, owing to the source of their livelihood.
Muslim residents of Naya Bans, who spoke to NewsClick, said they were living in fear ever since Bulandshahr violence took place on December 3, 2018. The incident was triggered by discovery of carcasses of cattle in the forest close to Chingrawati police station.
Hussain, elder brother of Sharfuddin Saifi – who had spent 16 days in jail after being wrongly implicated for cow slaughter – told NewsClick, "Things have changed a lot and we do not feel secure while sharing anything with anyone now. Our children are so scared that they are afraid to get out of the houses. A dozen Muslim families including Habibur Rahman, Jabbar, Ajiz Ahmad have left the village out of fear, and have shifted to Dasna and Masuri, where they are either paying rent or staying with the relatives. We also want to sell our house so that we can shift to some Muslim locality.
"On the day poll result was announced, we were offering prayers at the mosque. Suddenly, over 250 people started bursting firecrackers outside the main gate of the mosque. They knew that we were busy in our Ramzan prayers, but did so anyway. It went beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour when the crowd reached outside my house, and started playing DJ music. They continued for an hour," said Hussain, adding that he has lost all hope in political parties.
Another villager Rafique* (name changed) alleged that he has been threatened by the district administration that he will booked under the National Security Act (NSA) if he raises any issue from the village before the media. He told NewsClick, "A team of journalists from Reuters had come to our village a few days back to understand the situation after the last year’s incident. I told them what I felt. The very next day, several police officers and the SDM [Sub Divisional Magistrate] came to me, and threatened to book me under NSA if I ever discuss anything about the village with anyone. I apologised to them even though I had not lied. Now, I am felling literally terrorised. We have now decided not to speak up no matter what."
Also read: Violence Against Dalits, Muslims Reported From Across India
When asked about the forced migration of a chunk of the Muslim community, Rafique said: "It depends on their financial condition. Dozens of families have migrated to different cities, but we cannot do this because we do not have money or savings. Yes, if one can give us money for some time, we are ready to shift immediately, and will return the money after some time. We want to sell our house, but who will buy?"
"The day counting of votes was underway, late at night, people took out a victory march carrying national as well as the BJP flag. They were playing songs in full volume. We dialled 100 [police helpline] several times to inform the police, but couldn't get any response," he added.
Relations between both the communities started deteriorating last year during the month of Ramzan last year when Hindus in the village reportedly demanded that loudspeakers used to call for prayer at a makeshift mosque be removed, local Muslims said.
Ghulfam Ali, who has been running a small grocery shop in Naya Bans since decades, told NewsClick, "The mosque in our village was established in 1976, and for the past 40 years, we have been using these loudspeakers for the prayers. But a few Bajrang Dal activists, with the help of police, got the speakers removed last year around Ramzan, arguing that it disturbed the whole community. Despite fulfilling all the requirements including paper work and permission from the Waqf Board, we have been not allowed to operate the loudspeakers in Ramzan. Due to this, people have been facing issues with the timings for Iftar [breaking fast at the sunset] and Suhoor [early morning meal]."
NewsClick spoke with more than 10 Muslims from the village, but except for a few, no one wanted to be named for the fear of angering the Hindu population.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the MPs in Parliament on May 25, asked them to work in the government without discriminating against anyone, and to win the trust of minorities. He also asked them to take everyone together, as minorities have been made to live in fear and have been treated as a vote bank.
Jabbar Ali, who has recently migrated to Dasna in Ghaziabad district, said, "I used to work as a carpenter in Saudi Arabia, and read a lot of negative stories about my village. When I came back to India, my children were not ready to live in the village. They were afraid due to the increasing hatred against Muslims. I don’t want to go back to the village where I do not feel safe.”
BJP and its ally Apna Dal(S) have won 64 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, in the recently concluded general elections.
Also read: Bulandshahr Violence: Blatant Misuse of NSA