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‘Youths with covered faces’ lay siege to Aligarh village as Twinkle murder takes communal turn

Prime suspects Zahid and Aslam, accused of killing Aligarh two-year-old Twinkle over a money-related feud with her family, have been arrested.

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Tappal (Aligarh): Several “outsiders” have laid siege to Tappal village in Aligarh, where a two-year-old named Twinkle Sharma was brutally killed earlier this month, in a bid to provoke communal passions around the murder.

Prime suspects Zahid and Aslam, who are accused of killing Twinkle over a money-related altercation with her grandfather, have been arrested along with two others.

Twinkle, the only daughter of Shilpa and Banwari Lal Sharma, was allegedly abducted and killed on 30 May. Her decomposed body was discovered on 2 June while it was being fed on by stray dogs at a garbage dump: She had several fractures, a dismembered arm, and her eyes were out of their sockets.

Still in shock from the brutality of the crime, the villagers now find themselves facing a campaign to give the crime a communal angle. Tappal, a village of 15,000 with a big chunk of Muslim population, is predictably on edge.

Rijwan, a resident, told ThePrint that many Muslim families had fled the village amid fears of a communal backlash. On a visit to Tappal, this reporter saw locks on dozens of Muslim houses.

Since the murder, thousands of police and CRPF personnel have been deployed in the village, where the past few days have seen the arrival of several vehicles bearing Delhi, Faridabad and Gurugram number plates.

Dozens of youngsters, their faces covered, have been roaming the streets screaming “Jai Shri Ram”. There have been reports of stray clashes between stick-wielding youth and police personnel, who have had to resort to baton charge to bring the situation under control at some places.

Also read: Aligarh two-year-old was beaten up for 8 hours before she died

‘Misguided boys’

As ThePrint caught up with him for an estimate about the situation, former pradhan Lalit instructed some Muslim children walking around to return home.

“I was the one who called police after Twinkle’s body was discovered,” he said. “Now, some outsiders are trying to stage a riot on this issue. This is a case of brutal murder and attempts are being made to turn it into a Hindu vs Muslim issue. These boys are misguided. We are also Hindu. Why are they shouting Jai Shri Ram in front of houses… despite knowing its implications?”

Twinkle’s father Banwari Lal has also been at the forefront of efforts to keep his daughter’s death from being communalised.

“My daughter is now gone. All I want is exemplary punishment for the culprits. I am not saying that the entire Muslim community of my village should suffer due to this,” he told ThePrint. “For years, we have been used to living in perfect harmony…”

Banwari’s cousin Anil Sharma, seated beside him, added, “Since three-four days, strange outsiders are trying to incite us, but we are not getting provoked. This is not a Hindu-Muslim matter at all. You can go outside and see for yourself how provocatively they are talking.”

Outside Twinkle’s house, a large mob is gathered, most of whom, according to villagers, are outsiders. Their chants are about seeking revenge from a certain community, and the Kathua rape and murder case — involving an eight-year-old Bakerwal Muslim victim and Hindu suspects — is talked about as well.

The topic changed once they spotted media cameras. “You must have understood what we are saying,” said a man addressing the mob.

“Tell me,” added the person, “why is even one Muslim not standing here? They are involved in more than 90 per cent of such incidents.”

The mob concurred and chants of “Jai Shri Ram” began afresh.

Also read: India’s justice system needs complete overhaul, says Justice Gogoi on child sexual abuse cases

‘Twinkle was our child too’

Most of the Muslims still in the village are keeping to their homes. One of them, a neighbour of Aslam, said Twinkle was “our child too”.

“In the beginning, we had also visited Banwari’s house. After her disappearance, an announcement was made from the mosque’s loudspeaker for information about her whereabouts,” the neighbour added, “But now, outsiders are abusing us. They have also thrashed a few of our kids [who went to Twinkle’s house]. So, no one is going to their house now because of fear. We do not want any kind of riots.”

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