A recent private dispute between two families in an eastern Uttar Pradesh village assumed a communal colour in what is a telling reminder of the impunity enjoyed by Hindutva activists in India’s most-populous state.
What appeared to be a case of forceful encroachment of land that a Muslim man owned in Domariyaganj soon escalated into a show of Hindutva aggression when a mob, comprising mostly supporters of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Raghvendra Pratap Singh, gathered to support the encroachers, who happened to be three Hindu men.
Speaking to The Wire, Mohammad Islam, who owns the land, alleged that on April 6, Aagyaram Yadav, Gangaram Yadav and Ramcharan Prajapati of the Shahpur Tola came to Islam’s land around 4 pm and forcefully installed an elephant’s statue.
“Later that same day, hundreds of people also came to support the installation,” Islam said.
According to Islam, the mob, led by men allegedly linked to former BJP MLA Singh, gathered around his land in support of the encroachers.
Islam said that there was a private dispute between his family and Prajapati’s about the land’s boundary, but the installation of the statue and the involvement of right-wing leaders has made it a ‘Hindu-Muslim’ issue, weaponising the present political climate in the district. He alleged that he has been receiving constant death threats from the accused.
“The land is my ancestral and legal possession. A legal battle was fought and won by my father and grandfather for this land. I have a copy of the judgments given by the magistrate,” Islam said.
He explained that the old dispute was a family dispute that had been settled through a court order in his father’s favour. However, in 2019, a fresh dispute emerged about the boundary of the land with Prajapati’s family. Islam then went to complain and seek help from the Domariyaganj police, as a court judgement had already ruled in his favour.
“However, police refused to help and said, ‘Tomorrow is MLC elections; we can’t do anything for you today’,” alleged Islam.
On April 9, when Islam went to Shahpur Mandi for his work, Aagyaram, Gangaram and two others, Charan and Manish Agrahari, allegedly attacked him.
“They started abusing and beating me mercilessly with sticks, kicks and punches. They kept beating me for around 20 minutes while I was screaming for help and pleading with them to let me go,” Islam claimed. The assault left scars across his body.
He also alleged that former BJP MLA Singh’s men were involved in the case.
“Sailesh Singh and Dabloo Sabhasad (two of Raghvendra Singh’s aides) were also there with them while they were beating me,” Islam said.