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Cops Barged Into Our Homes at Night, Smashed Everything, Snatched Cash and Jewellery, Say Muzaffarnagar’s Muslim Families

Locals in Muzaffarnagar allege that upwardly mobile Muslim families of means have been made the target of a police crackdown.

Uday Singh Rana | CNN-News18@UdaySRana

Updated:December 25, 2019, 10:45 PM IST
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Cops Barged Into Our Homes at Night, Smashed Everything, Snatched Cash and Jewellery, Say Muzaffarnagar’s Muslim Families
A parked car covered in broken glass. The kitchen and all the bathrooms have also been destroyed.

Muzaffarnagar: There is a broken clock on the wall of Haji Hamid Hassan’s room. The hands of the clock are stuck at three minutes to 11. “That’s when they came,” says the 72-year-old. “They (the police) smashed this clock first and it has been stuck since then.”

Hassan says he was in his room at 10:57 pm with his 14-year-old grandson Ahmed when the cops stormed into his house and started smashing everything up.

The family, based in the Muslim-majority neighbourhood of Sarwat, had been saving for years for the wedding of Hassan’s two granddaughters in February. The house, which bore a festive look before Friday, now looks like a tornado has been through it.

Refrigerators, washing machines and cupboards, which haven’t even been unpacked, are smashed and broken. The family has four scooters, all of which have been broken. Ruqaiyya, the 21-year-old bride-to-be, is in the hospital with a head wound. Five other members of the family, including 14-year-old Ahmed, have sustained injuries.

“We agree that burning buses is wrong, but why hurt us? What did I do? I am 72-years-old, I wasn’t even at the protest,” he says.

Locals in Muzaffarnagar allege that upwardly mobile Muslim families of means have been made the target of a police crackdown.

Violence was reported in Muzaffarnagar’s Meenakshi Chowk after afternoon prayers on December 20, Friday. Soon after the violence was brought under control, the administration sealed shops in the area. Over the years, Meenakshi Chowk has emerged as the commercial center for the city’s Muslims.

“We are respectable people,” says Abdul Sattar, who owns a metallurgy workshop in the area. “We are people who have worked hard and managed to get a shop in Meenakshi Chowk. Shiv Chowk is just a few meters ahead and it has been left untouched. Meenakshi Chowk is the hub of Muslim capital in Muzaffarnagar. Why only target businessmen of one community?”

The district administration has sealed 67 shops in the area. Last week, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had warned that his regime would extract “revenge” on rioters by “auctioning” their properties.

Mohammed Anees, who owns a restaurant in Meenakshi Chowk, says, “We don’t know what’s going to happen to our shops. Will they auction them, like the CM said? We weren’t involved in any violent incident, we don’t deserve this. Businessmen want stability. We were not given any reasons either. This is like a surgical strike on our livelihood.”

The district administration, however, directly contradicted the CM’s claims of properties being auctioned.

“A rumour is being spread that these shops will be auctioned. That is far from the truth. Since the violence took place at Meenakshi Chowk, we are treating the entire area as an active crime scene. There are CCTV cameras in these shops and we want to preserve the evidence. That is why we have sealed 67 shops,” additional district magistrate (ADM) Amit Singh told News18.

Azhar Rahi, who owns a restaurant at Meenakshi Chowk, said, “Only four or five of the shops here have CCTV cameras. The rest don’t even have them, so why seal the other 60-odd shops? Every day that the shop remains shut, I lose Rs. 50,000-60,000 a day. I don’t earn anything in sales, but I have to pay the cost of labour anyway or they will go back to their villages.”

The ADM told News18 that he would accept requests from business owners who wanted their shops to be reopened. He also said he was looking into complaints of alleged police brutality in the Khalapar and Sarwat areas.

The families whose homes have been vandalised say they want the ADM and other district officials to visit their homes and survey the damage. They also demand compensation for all damages they have incurred.

If Hamid Hassan claims damages worth Rs 20 lakh, 74-year-old Haji Anwaar Ilahi, a wholesale footwear trader, says his loss may be even higher. In the Khalapar area, Ilahi is a pillar of the community. Through years of working as a trader, he has managed to construct a four-storey house for his entire extended family.

Today, however, the house resembles a war zone. The damage is apparent to visitors as soon as they enter. The family car is parked in the driveway and is covered in broken glass. The house, right up to the fourth floor, is covered in shards of broken glass. The kitchen and all the bathrooms have been destroyed. The family says that even jewellery and cash worth lakhs were taken away by the police.

jewelleryThe family claims police took away jewellery and cash worth lakhs of rupees.

“They came after midnight. There was a box with Rs 3.25 lakh in cash. They smashed it open and took the cash. We had been saving for my granddaughter’s wedding in March. They took all the jewellery in the house. We are ruined,” he says.

While the administration claims only people seen in videos were picked up, Ilahi, who suffers from polio in his right foot, was also picked up on Friday night.

“They kept in the lock-up for two days. They didn’t even tell me where they were taking me. My family was not allowed to meet me while I was in the lock-up. They didn’t even give me a sheet to cover myself in the cold.”

A police baton is kept near a line of empty boxes of jewellery.

Humaira Parveen, Ilahi’s 24-year-old granddaughter, says a cop left it behind in his rush to try and take away their jewellery. She breaks down as she recounts what she saw. “There were even some people in civil dress with the police, they did not look like cops. When one cop was breaking things, another said to him, ‘patthar mat todo, yahan toh humein hi rehna hai’ (Don’t break these tiles, we have to live here eventually).”

She adds, “They want us to leave. Lekin yeh humara ghar hai, hum kyun jaayein? (This is our house, why should we leave?)”

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