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What have we done to deserve this, ask victims
Shemin Joy, MUZAFFARNAGAR, Sep 10, 2013, DHNS: 1:21 IST
Riots continue: Communal violence has so far claimed 38 lives in Muzaffarpur district
Seventy-year-old Shakuran, a mentally unstable Muslim woman, lies in a hospital oblivious of the things happening outside.
A young unani practitioner Shah Faizal writhes in pain two beds away unable to fathom why he became a target while attending to patients at his clinic.
Whether it is 37-year-old Awnesh Kumar or 15-year-old school student Mohd Najim Sethi, all have similar tales.
They ask what did they do to deserve this punishment and why have they become pawns in a game of intrigue, as they never had a riot in their localities since independence. The riots, spread over a week in Muzaffarnagar and a number of villages in the district, have united them in pain and suffering.
The violence, which began on August 27 with a molestation incident, has so far claimed 38 lives. Muslims and Jats are on a warpath in the district.
The tale of Shakuran from Nath village is a story of irony at a time when people have chosen the path of violence.
While the whole of Muzaffarnagar was on the boil, Shakuran fell victim to the rioters despite some men from the Jat community guarding her house as well as that of others. The story does not end here.
The Jats who were providing security to their Muslim neighbours were driven away from the scene by their community members who clashed with them. As soon as the handful of Jats were out of sight, the rest went on a rampage, setting on fire houses belonging to minority community members and attacking them.
Shakuran fell into the hands of the rioters and suffered serious head injuries. The elderly woman was thrashed by the hooligans while her sons and daughters-in-law were in the safety of another house.
A heavily bleeding Shakuran was rushed to the district hospital, a teary-eyed daughter-in-law Akthari Begum said.
“If not for our five Jat neighbours who sat the whole night in our house, we would have been killed,” she says. At least five houses were set on fire in the area. Awnesh (26), who belongs to the Jat community, was also admitted to the hospital with injuries on his head, legs and hands.
He was returning from a panchayat called by his community members when Muslims attacked their trolleys in which they were travelling.
“Even women were pelting stones from rooftops while men were pounding us with lathis,” said Awnesh. All complained that the police were of no help and repeated calls to the village-heads and the administration were ignored.
“The village-head (pradhan) was repeatedly telling the police that there was no problem in our area,” said Akthari.
Faizal had sent his parents and sisters to safety, while staying with his younger brother Shah Azam (25) to attend to his patients. “A mob came to my house which also houses the clinic. There were some patients. They asked me why I was providing hideout to them and attacked me. My brother was also injured. My patients who were on drips were also attacked,” Faizal said.
Sethi was en route to a marriage with his grand father when he was attacked.
“The mob threatened the driver, a Hindu, who tried to drive us away to safety. They made him run away. They did not ask me anything. They just caught hold of me, stabbed me on my shoulder, hit me with sticks and rods. What have I done to deserve this punishment,” he asked.