Noorpur (Tappal): In Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh, Noorpur has garnered widespread attention after some Dalit residents of the village put up ‘for sale’ signs in front of their houses.
The signs were put up by members of the Jatav community, who alleged that the majority Muslim residents of the village were harassing and discriminating against them.
The villagers also accused the police of painting over their ‘for sale’ signs with blue paint against their wishes, but the latter denied the allegation
“I took command of the post on 1 June and I am not aware of any such thing,” said Samay Singh, the station house officer of Tappal Police Station.
The row between the two communities began on 26 May, after a marriage procession was allegedly stopped by some Muslims as it was passing through the village’s mosque and a physical altercation followed.
The father of the bride, 44-year-old Om Prakash, also filed a case against 11 people after the altercation. The Tappal Police Station filed the FIR under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 147 (rioting), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intent to provoke breach of peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), 336 (endangerment of life), 341 (wrongful restraint), 427 (mischief causing damage) of the Indian Penal Code and the relevant sections of the SC/ST Act.
However, the Muslim residents of the village said that they had just requested the marriage procession to avoid playing loud music while passing through the masjid since namaz was going on at the time but the request was not heeded.
Since then, tensions have been high in the village with the Uttar Pradesh Police deploying a platoon of their armed division, Pradeshik Armed Constabulary, to maintain peace. One sub-inspector and four constables have also been posted at the village.
‘We’re constantly discriminated against’
Noorpur is the only Muslim-majority village in the Hindu-dominated Tappal area, according to the police. The village comprises 80 per cent Muslim residents while Dalits make up 20 per cent of the population.
According to the Dalit villagers, the violence between the two communities on 26 May was not a one-off incident. They accused the Muslims of constantly discriminating against them, practicing untouchability, using casteist slurs and eve-teasing women of their community.
They further noted that several baraat (marriage processions) have been stopped in front of the masjid ever since it was constructed three years ago. The village masjid is situated on the main street of the village, and there is no alternative route.
“This is the third or fourth wedding that’s been attacked. Ever since the masjid was established, Muslims haven’t let our baraat pass that path, the only way to our houses. We don’t feel safe in our houses so we put up these signs, but the police painted all over them, about two days ago,” said Om Prakash, father of brides Sonam and Sapna who got married on 26 May.
Some houses tried their best to get rid of the blue paint to ensure their protest wasn’t diluted. “I quickly washed the paint after the police left. Why shouldn’t I? I don’t feel safe here, so why won’t I protest! Instead of pulling such stunts, the administration should try listening to what we have to say,” said Gula Rani, another resident.
The Dalit residents also accused the Muslims of using casteist slurs against their community and harassing them.
“It’s so difficult to go in the fields alone because muslim boys chase after us calling us these names,” said 60-year-old Saroj Devi. “When they get married, they fire bullets in the air till 2 in the morning. We never say anything.”
“When they call me to their house, I sit on the floor while they sit on chairs like kings and talk to me. When they come to my house, again, I have to sit on the floor and talk while they stretch themselves like kings on my cot. They don’t even drink water from our houses. Do they think we don’t understand why?” said Om Prakash.
The Tappal Police, however, said that this was the first time that violence had broken out in the village.
“There’s harmony in the village. Such things haven’t been reported earlier. The only thing is this issue has gained a lot of political attention and has been made into a Hindu-Muslim thing,” SHO Singh told ThePrint.
‘Political parties causing animosity’
Meanwhile, the village’s Muslim community said that they were being demonised unnecessarily and that the Dalits were getting influenced by political parties fanning communal flames.
“All we wanted was for them to wait till namaz was over. Then they could’ve danced, sang, or did whatever they wanted. Is that an irrational demand? And no, this allegation that we stop each and every baarat that passes from here is baseless,” Mohammad Tahir, a local resident said.
Tahir noted that there has always been a sense of brotherhood between the two communities. “We’ve been living peacefully for decades and continue to do so. Muslim and Jaatav bhai both belong to an oppressed class. Right now, savarna parties that are all about upper caste politics are playing with Jaatav emotions to make this a Hindu-Muslim issue while this is a Dalit-Muslim problem right now.”
The villagers also condemned the controversial statement made by AIMIM leader Nazim Ali. On 3 June, Ali had said that while namaz goes on in villages, they’ll continue to disallow Dalit marriage processions from passing through.
“These leaders say whatever they want because they don’t have to face the consequences of their words, we do. I strongly condemn what he said,” said Nizam, a local resident.
Some Muslim locals also alleged that some people who were booked for the crime were not even there when the brawl broke out.
“Look at me, I have polio in both my legs. Do you think I’m going to jump into a brawl? But I had a problem with a Jaatav bhai so he had levelled allegations against me out of spite,” said Lehru who has been booked by the police.