Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day after, Pratapgarh village tense; 2 FIRs but no arrest - By Prashant Pandey - The Indian Express;-2-firs-but-no-arrest/966315/0

The Indian Express

Day after, Pratapgarh village tense; 2 FIRs but no arrest

Prashant Pandey : Asthan, Pratapgarh, Mon Jun 25 2012, 02:04 hrs
The residents of Asthan village in Pratapgarh, UP, whose houses were torched on Saturday by a mob protesting against the rape and murder of a girl, are living in fear and not even thinking of returning to their homes to begin life afresh. The situation remains tense.

Two FIRs have been registered and 68 people identified. No arrests have been made so far. The police said 46 houses had been torched.

The Station Officer of Nawabganj police station, Arun Kumar Pathak, has been placed under suspension. Senior officials have also sent negative reports against Circle Officer (Kunda) V S Rana.

The violence had erupted when the body of the girl, who was allegedly gangraped and murdered on June 20, was being taken for cremation on Saturday.

The incident comes close on the heels of riots in Kosi Kalan in Mathura, where the Muslim localities were targeted on June 3.

One of the more than 125 “refugees” — put up at T P College in Kunda since Saturday evening — Akhtar Ali (80) said: “The mob came suddenly and surrounded us from all directions. They set our house on fire. My sons and some other residents somehow managed to save me.”

At the time, Ali’s four sons and three daughters, besides his wife, were present in the house. Three of his sons live in Bhiwandi where they work in powerlooms. Fourth one sells clothes brought from there. Together, they claimed to have lost goods worth over Rs 2.5 lakh.

“More importantly, we feel that the police simply aided the attackers. Give us that much time and we too can teach them (the attackers) a lesson,” said an angry Afsar Ali, son of the old man.

The Muslim hamlet houses mostly Ansaris who are employed in the powerloom industry in Bhiwandi. The victims could mostly have been women, children and old men, but for the fact that the many male members had come home to attend marriages. Their cattle, grains and other belongings were either taken away or burnt, they said.

All the “refugees” were shifted in the evening to a madrasa in nearby Barai for better care.

“They were facing problems at the college and the members of the Muslim community said they would be much at ease in madrasa, following which permission was given,” said Pratapgarh SP O P Sagar.

Asthan, with blackened houses, smoke still rising from a couple of houses, resembled a ghost village. A heavy posse of policemen guarded it. They also prevented this correspondent from visiting the hamlet in which the Dalits, who allegedly attacked the Muslim locality, lived.

Niyaz Ahmed Ansari, brother of Asthan’s pradhan Nizam Ansari, said the incident was waiting to happen. “When the incident of murder of the girl came to light, there were a few persons who told us that we should escape from the village if we were to save our lives,” said Niyaz.

He took refuge in Pariyawan village, about 4 km from Asthan. Niyaz said the issue could have been sorted out, but the visit of Shailendra Singh (Samajwadi Party’s MP from Kaushambi) and Vinod Saroj (independent MLA, Bihar Assembly constituency) a day before the violence led to the escalation of tension. 

Kaushambi’s two Assembly segments — Bihar and Kunda — fall in Pratapgarh.

“Although, it is matter of investigation, it is true that Singh and Saroj visited the area on Friday. They both belong to the same community as the attackers,” said Sagar.

Shailendra Singh said he had visited the Dalits and also the Muslims after the incident. “Why will any MP create strife in his own constituency? People who have a vested interest are spreading such rumours,” he said.

UP announces relief

The Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to residents of 46 houses which were torched by a mob in Pratapgarh’s Asthan village on Saturday. It also declared to provide ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the family of the11-year-old Dalit girl whose rape and murder allegedly led to the arson and violence.

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