There is palpable friction between Muslims and Thakurs in Dadri village, 3 years after Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched.
Bisara, Uttar Pradesh: Over the last three years, Bisara has repeatedly tried to rebuild its ‘Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb’, or the communally syncretic culture of the Ganga-Yamuna region. But it has faltered.
Its social fabric was ripped to shreds on the night of 28 September 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched by a local mob for alleged cow slaughter and possession of beef. Even now, distrust and anger simmer at the mere mention of the ‘Akhlaq kaand’.
Akhlaq’s family is long gone from the Dadri area, having moved to Delhi. The 18 accused youth, meanwhile, are out on bail, waiting for the court’s final order and, if possible, employment.
The twin houses occupied by Akhlaq’s family was the only Muslim household in the Thakur-dominated part of Bisara. Now, they lie abandoned — the blue doors are locked, an unpaved lane leading to the courtyard has been taken over by weeds, and the walls are stained with mould.
Less than a month after Akhlaq’s death, his wife Ikraman, mother Asgari, daughter Shaista and younger son Mohammad Danish — who suffered severe head injuries in the assault — moved to Delhi to live with his elder son Sartaj, who is employed with the Indian Air Force.
Jaan Mohammad, Akhlaq’s younger brother, who lives in another part of Dadri, says: “Sometimes, we feel like going back to the village, the house where we were born. But we don’t know what will happen if we step inside Bisara. A false case of cow slaughter and beef consumption has been slapped on us already. What if something untoward happens again?”
Speaking about Danish, he adds: “He wanted to be a civil servant or join the Army. But because of the case and the head injuries he sustained in the attack, his studies got affected. Even after recuperating, he gets frequent headaches.
“He is better now and he is taking tuitions for the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) exams. The earlier state government (headed by Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav) had promised him a job, but we don’t know where the offer currently stands.”
Neighbours claim to have no interest in Akhlaq’s house or his family. “Why should we go there? We don’t know who has come here in the last few years, but no one from his (Akhlaq’s) family has set foot in this village since then,” says Om Prakash, a resident of Bisara.
Friction between the communities
Even after all this time, the friction between the two communities — around 25 Muslim households and over 100 Thakur households — is palpable.
Maulana Dawood, imam of the local mosque, says: “Young men of this village are not disciplined. They get drunk, create a ruckus, and do not listen to what their elders are saying. Due to this, there are heated exchanges, or remarks are passed.”
Shakir Ali, a lineman in a Greater Noida factory who moved out of Bisara last year, says: “I sold my house for a few lakh rupees and moved out. A Thakur owns the property now and he runs a shop there too. The atmosphere in the village was not right and we did not feel like staying there.”
But Sanjay Rana, a local BJP leader whose son is one of the accused in the case, insists there is peace in the village. “Every time there are elections or 28 September comes, people from the media and local netas start flocking to the village. That matter took place three years ago, there is nothing new to say or to see here. Everything is peaceful in this village,” he says.
What became of the accused?
All but one of the 18 accused have returned to the village after being granted bail over the course of 2016 and 2017. The 18th, Ravin, died in 2016 at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital after multi-organ failure.
Only three of the accused claim to have found some source of income after returning.
“I am employed by a local contractor at an electricity sub-station. It is the job of a daily wage worker. Another accused is also employed there,” says a 20-year-old who was a minor when the crime took place, and is being tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Another accused, Arun, says he is working as a farmer, despite being a qualified primary veterinarian. “Currently, I am looking after the agricultural land that my family owns, but there is barely enough money in agriculture. Even if we want to get a job or a degree, it is difficult to do so since the court case is on,” he says.
“We cannot go to another state since we have to appear for court hearings every month, whether they take place or not.”