MUZAFFARNAGAR: In August 2013 communal riots flared up in Muzaffarnagar, UP resulting in army deployments to restore peace. Calm in curfew-bound Shahpur was broken on Tuesday when a group of people spilled onto the main road. Policemen ran towards the crowd anticipating trouble. They were surprised when “Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai” slogans went up.
Shyampal Bhaiji, Mohammed Arif, Madan Kumar Jain, Zafar Qureshi held hands as they led more than 100 people marching down the street. Hindus and Muslims embraced each other and pledged to live together.
During the riots Vedpal Malik sheltered 50 in his house. “They stayed with me for two days after the September 8 riot,” Malik said. “Later, the rioters returned, burning homes, shops and cars. I understood their fear. I told them we won’t stop you if you want to go. If you stay, we’ll protect you,” the former pradhan said. Vedpal and his neighbours stayed up nights and guard homes and cattle of their Muslim neighbours. Around 1,000 Muslims have fled Fugana.
Kharar pradhan Bijender Singh Malik opened his doors to 150 Muslims. “On Sunday morning, my neighbours rushed to me for help. I sent their women and children to the top floor,” Bijender said. “With our licenced guns, my brother and I stood guard on the rooftop,” he said. Two days later, when Army escorted the Muslims to camps, Bijender and Bhupinder hugged their Muslim neighbours. The likes of Vedpal and Bijender want their “Muslim brothers” to return.
Read more: Communal Harmony