KASGANJ (UTTAR PRADESH): Rehmat Khan is wary. Ration supplies to Kasganj have been erratic since the communal clashes that erupted over a Tiranga Yatra on Republic Day but he would rather go hungry than buy stuff from a shop belonging to a non-Muslim.
“Woh gair mazhabi ki ration ki dukaan hai, wahan se thodi na lenge (That shop is owned by someone from the other community. We will not buy rations from there),” said Rehmat, pointing to a shop that was once frequented by both communities.
The sentiment among the people is quite the same in areas far from Vir Abdul Hamid Chauraha, where the actual clash broke out. Three days later, Mohamed Shakir, the owner of a car repair shop, had been picked up by police and his shop shut down. Since then, Hindus have been avoiding the row of car repair shops adjacent to Shakir’s.
Iqbal Khurram, who owns a car repair shop in the same area, said, “The Hindus fear their presence in the area will alert the police in a wrong way. So, they have stopped coming to our shops. We are near the highway. Not long ago this place was thronged by Hindus and Muslims alike.”
Such is the nature of the deep Hindu-Muslim divide that now fractures Kasganj. Back in the time of the 1992 Babri demolition, Kasganj had chosen ‘aman’ (peace) over ‘atank’ (terror) and remained largely peaceful as a communal backlash was searing neighbouring areas. But since January 26, daily conversations have the ring of ‘hamara-unka’ (ours-theirs) about them.
A distorted rangoli of the Tricolour at the clash site, security forces deployed at the places of worship of one community and the remains of burnt shops are reminders of the clashes that erupted that day. There is also a pervasive sense of fear in both communities about the other.
So much so that shop-owners in Chitragupt Colony, the locality where the alleged arsonists come from, are also bearing the brunt. “Earlier, people from all walks of life visited my shop. But after Republic Day, I see members of only of one community coming here,” said Shyam Dubey, the owner of a provisions store.
In Baddu Nagar, which is close to Vir Abdul Hamid Chauraha, two emotions are at play: a sense of helplessness and seething anger against the other community. Five of the men arrested in connection with Chandan Gupta’s death on Republic Day are from this locality.
“If you see, there is not one non-Muslim named in the FIR. We are victims of the violence. Only our shops and our sites of worship were burnt but we are being arrested too. The real culprits are walking free,” said Maqsood Ali, a 64-year-old man, whose store was burnt down.
The ‘hamara-unka’ divide has percolated down to schoolchildren’s psyche too. A Class V girl studying in a school close to the spot where Chandan Gupta was killed said, “We now do not hang out with Muslim girls. Earlier, it was all fine. Now we are scared.”
The feeling is the same with kids from the other community. A Class VI student wearing a hijab said, “People we have known for years do not talk to us any more. Earlier, they greeted us and sometimes gave me chocolates.”