Over two dozen Muslims forced to flee from Borlay village of Madhya Pradesh‘s Barwani district dominated by the Hindu Patidar community after an incident of elopement took an ugly turn and houses of Muslims were being attacked several times.
On 18 April 2021, when the second wave of coronavirus was ravaging the country, a 21-year-old Ameen Khan, a resident of Borlay village eloped with minor girl from Patidar community. The duo were caught late at night and police booked the boy and three of his accomplices under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code including 363, 376, and other sections of the POCSO Act, the Barwani police claimed. Girl was sent to home.
But back to the village which is dominated by the Patidar community has over 40 Muslim families located almost 18-km from Barwani district headquarter under Anjar Police station, Muslims bore the brunt of the incident.
The Patidars targeted the homes of Muslims on the night of the incident forcing them to flee from the village. The boundary wall of the Muslim graveyard was demolished by unknown people. Locks were put on the mosque’s gate prohibiting namaz and azan. The imam of mosque and his wife were shooed away with humiliation. Some handcarts of Muslim vendors were also burnt by unknown people late in the night with an intention to force Muslims to leave the village, say witnesses.
The situation remained intense for almost a week before the town inspector of Anjar Police station Tara Mandloi and Sub Divisional Magistrate called members of both communities for a peace meeting on 30 April.
“We were forced to sign on paper in presence of police and SDM which was prohibiting us from performing Azaan using loudspeakers and to recruit imam from another village to perform prayers. According to paper, entire Muslim community would be hold accountable if any untoward incident (elopement, etc) took place in the village,” said Muslim leader Fakhruddin Khan (47) adding that over 100 people were present in the peace meeting against the five Muslim attendees.
Even after five months of the incident, the restrictions imposed by leaders of Hindu community on Muslims is still prevailed and over two dozen Muslims migrated from the village including the Ameen’s family.
Muslims who are mostly labourers remained in home for weeks owing to fear.
Speaking over the phone, Lateef Khan, father of Ameen and a driver by profession, said: “After the incident, I left the village owing to fear of attack and migrated to Indore where my elder son is working for a private company.”
When asked about Ameen, he replied, “His bail has been denied and he is still in jail for months while a few of his friends who helped him were granted bail.”
Besides Lateef, families of Mukhtiyar (50) and Rafi Tailor (48) also forced to migrate to Barwani abandoning their homes in the village. Many are also planning to flee if the situation did not improve, said, villagers.
Villagers claimed that the economical activities which were totally ended after the incidents have resumed and a few members of the Hindu community have also come in support of the Muslims.
A resident of the village, Ghulam Rasool Khan said that the restrictions imposed on Muslims after the incident still continue and no serious attempts were made by the district administration and the police despite repeated complaints to bring peace including reconstruction of graveyard’s boundary wall.
“But, the situation is improving slowly and both the communities have begun communicating and engaging in commercial activities,” says Khan.
Another Muslim youth, Saleem said that the incidents of urinating and spitting on the mosque’s gate and public humiliation of Muslim villagers have come to an end. “Holding an entire community accountable for the mischief of a teenager is not justifiable, we are living here peacefully for generations,” he said adding that the villagers have given numerous complaints to collector and chief minister but it yielded no results.
When contacted, Tara Mandloi, Town inspector of Anjar Police station, said to Maktoob that restoring peace is her highest priority. “I took part in a meeting called by the Muslim villager two months ago to end restrictions but it did not resolve. It may take a little more time,” she claimed.
Collector Shivraj Singh Verma also told Maktoob: “I will look into this matter and try to normalise the situation including construction of boundary wall of Muslim graveyard.”
Barwani Superintendent of Police, Nimish Agrawal did not respond to the calls.
Recalling the events of communal harmony, Fakhruddin Khan said, “our village was well-known for communal harmony in the district. Our Hindu brothers used to hold Eid Milan Samaroh and greet Muslims. In return, we used to volunteer with them in their festivals and celebrate their festivals with them. But one incident has put everything upside down.”