Fearing False Implication, Muslim Families Flee UP Village Ahead of Kanwar Yatra

After violence during last year's yatra injured dozens, police have issued "red cards" to 250 individuals who "may cause trouble". About 70 Muslim families have left the village fearing they will be falsely implicated.

New Delhi: A year after violence erupted in Khelum village of Bareilly, UP during the Kanwar yatra, police have descended upon the village, issuing ‘red cards’ to 250 residents meant to deliver a “psychological message” to individuals the district administration says “may cause trouble” during this year’s yatra.

The residents were also made to pay a “symbolic bond” of Rs 5 lakh which they will have to pay up if the administration deems that they have created a disturbance, according to a report in the Indian Express.

The police have also been searching the homes of residents – both Hindus and Muslims – in addition to issuing “red cards”. The crackdown has prompted about 70 Muslim families to lock their houses and leave the village as they fear they could be falsely implicated if there is a repeat of last year’s violence.

During the yatra last year, clashes erupted between the Kanwariyas and members of the Muslim community, injuring dozens including about 15 security personnel.

The yatra is scheduled to pass through the same route this year.

Shahid Hussain, one of the residents who was handed a “red card” told the Indian Express that he was not present in the village last year during the clashes. “In the last fifteen days, police have conducted multiple checks in many houses and issued red cards. A fear has developed…I left my house a week back with my family to another village…Occasionally, I come back to check on my house,” he said.

The police have established a “control room” in Hasmat Khan’s house, who has since left the village. CCTV cameras have also been installed along the yatra’s route.

The police denied knowledge of Muslims leaving the village in fear, the Indian Express reported. They said they could have left “for their own work”.

Vandalism in Delhi

On Wednesday, Kanwariyas vandalised a car in west Delhi. Police registered a case against unidentified persons. The police report claims that the car had hit a Kanwariya, who was also slapped by one of the car’s occupants. About 20 Kanwariya’s converged and began vandalising the car. The police also claim that an inspector was rushed to the spot along with four police control room (PCR) vans, only to find an overturned card, without any sign of the car’s owners or the Kanwariyas.

A video captured at the scene shows Kanwariyas damaging the car’s windows and windshield, even as two policemen are in the vicinity.

The car’s occupants fled the scene, fearing for their lives and refused to give any complaint in writing, police said, adding that the CCTV footage of the incident was recovered.

On the basis of enquiries conducted by the police and available CCTV footage, a case has been registered, they added.
Meanwhile, several commuters who witnessed the rampage from close quarters expressed their fear and rued the lack of policing in the national capital.

“I was scared after seeing the Kanwariyas vandalising the car. I had to attend an important meeting but decided to postpone it,” said Sonia Jha, a commuter.

Mithilesh Singh, who saw the entire drama unfold from a few feet away had to cancel his visit to the hospital to see his ailing uncle.

Kanwariyas showered with flowers in UP

Meanwhile in Uttar Pradesh, the Kanwariyas were afforded a grand welcome, showered with flower petals from helicopters. ADG (Meerut Zone) Prashant Kumar, while supervising the yatra from a helicopter, was seen showering rose petals in a video posted by news agency ANI.

On July 28, UP chief minister Adityanath had also showered the Kanwariyas with rose petals from his chopper.

According to the Indian Express, almost all meat shops or restaurants offering non-vegetarian food were asked to shut shop temporarily or serve vegetarian food during the course of the Kanwar Yatra.

Rajesh Kumar Pandey, SSP (Meerut) said that those engaged in the meat business were asked to “cooperate” during the yatra. “I am thankful to them that a majority among them have closed down shutters for the period or have switched to the vegetarian mode,” he said .

(With PTI inputs.)