In riot-hit UP village, man on a mission to bring Muslims back

October 9, 2018

Sanjeev Pradhan wants every Muslim family that was forced to leave his village Dulheda in UP’s Muzaffarnagar after the deadly riots to now return home
The 42-year-old had helped save several Muslim families during the riots by not only giving them shelter in his home but also ferociously guarding them
Sanjeev Pradhan has a dream. He wants every Muslim family that was forced to leave his village Dulheda in UP’s Muzaffarnagar
district to now return home. Of the 65-odd Muslim families in Dulheda — situated in the Shahpur region of Muzaffarnagar — that fled after the deadly riots that shook the area in August and September 2013, Pradhan has persuaded around 30 to return.
Pradhan’s efforts resonate more in the restive region because the 42-year-old had helped save several Muslim families during the riots by not only giving them shelter in his home but also ferociously guarding them at the places where they had taken refuge.
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Afsana Begum, who came back to the village after more than four years, recalls, “I remember how he and his men guarded our mosque. He wouldn’t let anyone touch it. He protected us with his life. If he says we should come back, I will trust him without thinking twice.” On his part, Pradhan says he judges people on the basis of their character, not religion.

Sanjeev Pradhan says he judges people on the basis of character, not religion
“Mussalman kharab hai? Ya Hindu kharab hai? Insaan kharab hai (Is the Muslim bad, or is the Hindu bad? I will say it is the person who is bad). We need to fight and hope for change. I am only doing that,” he says.
Sticking to his conviction has not been easy though. Pradhan, a former village head, had to incur criticism of the members of his Jat community (who make up most of the population of the village) for “being an obstacle when an opportunity had come for ridding the village of Muslim influence forever.”
Nawab Singh, one of his supporters, says, “Sanjeev Pradhan lost the village head elections in 2015 and one of the primary reasons was his act of saving minority members’ lives in the riots. Some of the Hindus had even started greeting him with Salam-Alaikum in a sarcastic manner, claiming he was now almost a Muslim.”
Looking back, Pradhan says he wouldn’t have done a thing differently. “I vividly remember the day — September 8, 2013. We could hear gunshots in the distance and, later, it became quite evident that the carnage had begun. Since most of the minority families and the lone mosque was near my house on the southern end of the village, we had started guarding their homes ever since the first murders were reported on August 27 in Kawal village, which triggered the riots.”


Located just a kilometre away from Kutba, the village that witnessed the killing of eight Muslims, Dulheda, too, could not remain untouched by the violence that erupted, which eventually led to 62 deaths and the displacement of over 50,000 people from Muzaffarnagar district. However, Pradhan and his supporters unflinchingly resisted all attempts by people from neighbouring villages to stoke communal fires in their village.


Bala Bano, a resident who returned to the village at Pradhan’s insistence, recalls those terrifying days. “We were full of fear and uncertainty. If Pradhan hadn’t been there, we would not have survived. When the situation started to deteriorate in the first week of September (2013), he called up our menfolk who were out of the village to immediately return and took us to the safety of his house, which was being guarded by his men. Even at night, he used to sit outside and keep vigil himself. We owe our lives to him.”


Afsana remembers how Pradhan arranged for more than 300 Muslims to be escorted to the Palhera and Shahpur relief camps. “He wanted to come with us himself to the relief camps but we told him that could jeopardise his own safety. He, therefore, organised buggies to transport us to the camps. I remember we were extremely scared but his supporters, all Jats wielding arms, walked by our side throughout the way and ensured that nobody was harmed.”
After the Muslim families had moved to the shelters, Pradhan made sure that their cattle were taken care of and their houses protected. Sajid Ahmad, one of those who returned after staying in a relief camp for some time, says, “Muslim families in the village do not have big landholdings and mostly depend on cattle rearing. So, it was a big relief when we came back to find that our cattle were safe.”
Pradhan says that the village society works on mutual trust and can function optimally only when people co-operate with each other. “Muslims in the village are a big help to farmers like us. They help us during the cane harvest, build our houses and co-operate in so many other things. We are all dependent on each other and need to respect each other. I will keep trying to get them back home.”


“Hindus are suffering badly from this secularism disease that’s why their situation is worse.”- Editor, Vedic Upasana Peeth


Source : Times Of India 

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