A Year After Durga Procession Faced Communal Attack, Balrampur Residents Carry On Tradition Amid Police Cover, But ‘Border’ Remains
Residents kept up the tradition albeit amid heavy police cover. But what did not change was the decades-old rule in the village that the Durga idol cannot pass in front of the mosque.
Last Dussehra, a Durga Puja procession in Harkhadi village of Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur district was heavily pelted with stones by local Muslims that left many injured.
Several people, all from the Muslim community, were arrested and Gangsters Act was slapped on three of them.
Watch the video of the violence here:
A year later, the residents kept up with the tradition on 25 October, albeit amid heavy police cover. The event was much smaller in scale, thanks to Covid-related restrictions.
What did not change, however, was the decades-old rule in the village that the Durga idol cannot pass in front of the mosque.
A line is marked on the road on either side of the mosque to mark a no-go zone for the idol. The idol must divert before the line and take a longer path to eventually hit the main road again. When Swarajya visited the village in October 2019 after the communal violence, Hindu residents had called the line an “India-Pakistan border”.
Watch the video of the procession on 25 October here:
The village has a registered Durga puja samiti headed by a 60-year-old resident named Akhileshwar Pandey. He said that the route was finalised by the police, based on which the samiti obtained a court order in 2008 to organise the procession every Dussehra.
It was based on Pandey’s statement that the concerned Pachpewda police station registered a first information report (FIR) in the stone-pelting incident on 8 October 2019.
The police booked 24 miscreants, along with many other unidentified people under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 148 (armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 153a (promoting enmity between two groups), 295a (actions intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting their religious beliefs), 336 (endangering lives) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code and under section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
A few days later, the official Twitter handle of Balrampur police posted that it had arrested eight men while others were absconding.
Pandey says that’s about all the arrests that the police made in the case.
“Except three on whom Gangsters’ Act was invoked, all others are out on bail. The main accused, Haji Maqbool, was never arrested,” he says.
Pandey, however, says that the village has not seen any incident of communal tension since the incident.
“There is always some police presence to prevent any untoward incident,” he says.
About the “border”, Pandey says he has no option but to obey the rule. His 22-year-old nephew, Suraj Pandey, says the younger generation finds the rule unacceptable, but are forced to follow it.
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