Tappal village in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh is on an edge after the horrific murder of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl a few days ago and is now simmering with communal tension. The brutal crime triggered national outrage, leading to the authorities suspending several policemen as well as blocking internet services in Khair area to prevent fake news and video clips from spreading misinformation on social media.
Since the accused belong to the Muslim community, Right-wing groups, such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, are allegedly egging the victim’s family to seek “instant justice” against the accused.
As per reports, the police on Sunday managed to stop Right-wing groups from holding a ‘mahapanchayat’ to vent anger against the alleged perpetrators of the crime. The call for this gathering to neigbouring villages was reportedly given via social media platforms by some Hindutva groups.
A reporter from Delhi, who had gone to cover the incident and was returning to the capital, corroborated this and wrote a social media post after seeing truckloads of people sporting ‘bhagua’ stoles and scarves heading towards Tappal.
Meanwhile, the bid to whip up communal tension in the aftermath of the brutal crime, has gripped Muslims in Tappal area with fear. Sources said that about a dozen Muslim families had already fled the area. However, Akash Kulahari, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Aligarh, dismissed such reports.
Meanwhile, tension has gripped the entire Aligarh region with people reporting seeing groups of men atop bikes hitting the streets and blocking roads at different places, adding to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation.
Days after the gruesome Aligarh murder, a Muslim family, travelling from Ballabhgarh, Haryana, in a van escaped from getting attacked by an angry mob. When asked, the police confirmed that the incident took place near Jattari area, 45 km from Aligarh. The family was reportedly travelling with a co-passenger, Puja Chauhan, who saved their lives, when a group of men on motorbikes attacked their van with iron rods, Shafi Mohammad Abbasi, one of the travelers, told the local media.
Attempts to give a communal colour to the heinous crime, began soon after the Uttar Pradesh police revealed the names of the accused.
Newsclick spoke to some of journalist who visited Tappal area recently , who confirmed that they saw saffron-scarved groups taking over the streets, trying to vitiate the atmosphere
Praising the victim’s family, a journalist who visited Tappal, requesting anonymity, told Newsclick: "Family members of the Aligarh murder victim are very wise. Otherwise activists of VHP and Bajrang Dal left no stone unturned to make it communal and are still trying hard. When I visited the victim's house, I found three leaders, including a district president of VHP and Bajrang Dal, accompanied by 10-12 others, chatting with the victim's father and grandfather. They kept mounting pressure on them to take revenge."
The journalist claimed that one Bajrang Dal activist from the crowd, who was making inflammatory remarks against Muslims, even asked us to shut our camera. The saving grace, according to this journalist, was that the victim’s father seemed sensible as did not get convinced. He told them he also wanted justice but through law.
“Though the local administration is doing its work, I am concerned that various outsiders are visiting the village and the police has no control over them," the journalist told Newsclick.
Another journalist reported seeing a “huge mob gathered outside victim's house and they were outsiders.” They were chanting slogans against a specific community and seeking revenge. Various people covering their faces in saffron gamcha (towel) were also seen clashing with the police.
A social activist based in Aligarh, who visited Tappal twice, told Newsclick, "Though the district administration controlled the situation in the region but still people of minority community are frightened after various people wearing saffron gamchas were spotted near by victim's house. They were in a large number and are visiting regularly despite police not allowing them to enter the village."
A two-and-a-half-year-old girl in Tappal area of Uttar Pradesh was strangled to death after her parents allegedly failed to repay a loan of Rs 10,000. The toddler's decomposed body was found on June 2 in a dumping ground near her house, three days after she went missing.
As per Aligarh Police, they have arrested four persons, including key accused Zahid Ali, his wife Shabista, brother Mehdi Hassan and his associate Aslam, in connection with allegedly strangulating the toddler over a financial dispute with her family. The police claimed that all have been booked under the National Security Act (NSA).
Meanwhile, social media platforms are being used for spreading rumours and misinformation and instigating revenge against Muslims and even alleging rape and mutilation. However, the SSP has denied all such reports and has confirmed that according to the post-mortem report, the child was not raped.
“No such thing, as has been doing the rounds on social media, has happened,” he said , adding that action was initiated against some persons for allegedly misusing social media to create communal tension.
However, despite Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's claim that Uttar Pradesh has become role-model of the country for its best law and order, the number of crimes against minors is rising. The state, under the BJP government, has witnessed five cases of rape in the last seven days. In Kushinagar, a 12-year-old dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by a group of six men. A six-year-old girl was raped in Barabanki, while an eight-year-old was raped at a graveyard in Bareilly. A nine-year-old girl’s body was recovered from a drain in Meerut.
As the situation remained communally tense, the authorities have deployed additional forces, even as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) remained clamped in Tappal.