Mistrust runs deep between communities in riot-torn Atali village

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New Delhi | Published: June 15, 2015 9:57:52 AM

Three weeks after over 20 houses were demolished and burnt over a disputed shrine in Atali village of Haryana's Ballabgarh district, the police is yet to make any arrest in the case.

Three weeks after over 20 houses were demolished and burnt over a disputed shrine in Atali village of Haryana’s Ballabgarh district, the police is yet to make any arrest in the case.

The DSP of Tigaon, Vishnu Dayal, said that FIR has been lodged against 62 to 70 people in connection with this case.

“We are waiting for the situation to become calmer to make any arrests in the case,” he added.

Atali, 12 kms from Ballabgarh, resembles a fortress with police teams and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel guarding each and every alley of the village.

On May 25, a mob stormed the houses of the minorities, demolishing and burning their property. The police said seven to eight houses were damaged and 15 people injured. The locals, however, put the figures much higher.

“As soon as the prayers were offered at the shrine at around 6:15 p.m., god knows from where a strong mob of some 2,000-4,000 people from the village and nearby areas stormed the shrine, then our houses, and destroyed everything. They had ploughs, swords, local weapons,” recalled a woman refusing to disclose her identity.

Her husband is recovering in a government hospital, around 17 kms from the village.

Locals alleged that the police ignored their repeated pleas as members of the majority community torched houses, vehicles and everything that came in their way.

“We hid our girls beneath the beds to protect them from the attackers,” said one of the victims. She recalled how a one-year-old girl was thrown into the fire, only to be rescued on time.

Though most of the villagers, who had fled their homes for the Ballabgarh Police Station, were back on June 4, tension remains in the air.

The village is hypothetically divided into two regions. While the first few metres of the village largely houses the minorities, the rest is occupied by the members of majority community. The May 25 incident has made the divide more evident.

In 2009, the two communities were up against each other laying claim on the land on which the shrine is built. However, earlier this year in March, the court favoured the construction of the shrine, said the police.

After the riots last months, a fresh plea was filed in the court seeking a stay on the construction – the hearing to which would be held on June 15.

Meanwhile, prayers resumed at the shrine as the people come to term with the loss and try to begin life afresh.

Anxious eyes watch any new visitor in the village and a gathering of people is looked at with suspicion.

Rubbing salt on the victims’ wounds is the nominal compensation offered by the administration, said a local. He added that the people whose entire house was reduced to ashes in the arson were offered only Rs. three lakhs.

Though the police said the situation was “peaceful” and “under-control”, mistrust runs deep between the two communities. While some hoped to see the two communities living amicably, others said the riots have changed the village forever.

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