“Mera motorbike ke leg guard ka karkhana tha. Mere aankhon ke samne sab raakh ho gaya. Ab bas uper wale par bharosa hai. Phir se business karenge, aur kya kare sakte hain. 10 lakh tak mera nuksan hua hai. Teen sau log beghar ho gaye. (I had a factory of leg guards for motorbikes. Everything turned to ashes in front of my eyes. I will start the business again because I do have faith in God. The damage is worth Rs 10 lakh. Three hundred people are homeless now),” said Mohammad Faisal, who lost everything in a massive fire in Meerut's Bhusa Mandi locality on March 6.
He added, "It has been four days since the incident, and I am sitting here in front of my factory. The local police officials have done all this. Along with my factory, there were more than 250-300 jhuggis, mostly of the Muslims, that have been burnt down. When the district administration and the local police themselves are involved in damaging our houses and factories, whom do we ask for justice?"
According to the police, on March 6, around 4 pm at Meerut’s Bhusa Mandi, the officials of the Cantonment Board along with local police had come to remove encroachment. Soon after, a clash broke out, reportedly between locals of Bhusa Mandi and the police teams. The police alleged that the mob went on a rampage after authorities tried to remove the encroachments. However, a local social activist told Newsclick that it was a targeted attack, as it was a Muslim-majority area.
According to reports, broken pieces of some bottles were found at the spot, which could mean that petrol bombs too were used.
According to local media reports, over two dozen cars, two-wheelers, eight or nine Uttar Pradesh roadways buses were damaged during the violence. Four persons, all from the minority community, have been arrested so far in connection with the violence. Meanwhile, a magisterial inquiry has been ordered. District magistrate Anil Dhingra told news agency PTI that the situation was "tense but under control".
Sushil Gautam, a local social activist told Newsclick, "The area comprised jhuggis of Muslims who are very poor people. Firstly, police broke their houses, and lathi charged them. The police have now arrested them only, instead of arresting those who were involved. However, the Meerut police have done this with the help of land mafia and a few local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders who threw petrol bombs at the slums. The main reason is to drive the encroachment as the land is worth crores.”
Hakimuddin, a rag-picker, told Newsclick, “I had arranged items for my daughter’s wedding. It has all turned to ashes. There was also cash worth Rs 20,000. All is gone now."
The police, however, have refuted all the allegations. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Nitin Tiwari told Newsclick, “The allegations are completely false. Why would the police burn their slums? Investigation is going on, we will catch the perpetrators soon.”