Godhra’s Eral village is in the news again, after the Godhra train burning incident in the state in 2002. After peace for so many years, this village, with a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims, is once again experiencing a strong fire-like situation between the two communities. On Wednesday night, the people of minority community ran to the district collector for protection after a stormy crowd burnt the tractor and other agricultural equipment kept on the farm.
On Wednesday night, according to the complaint registered, the people of both communites were in confrontation at Aral village in Kalol taluka last week. There was also a lot of shaking in the village. After that on Wednesday, 70 people of minority communities ran in the collector’s office, saying they had a risk to their life.
After that on Thursday, the officials, including the collector, tried to settle the situation by visiting the village. They also asked everyone to maintain peace and consoled them for protection. It is noteworthy that after the Godhra train incident, large storms broke out in the area and the incident of mass murders had taken place.
A resident of the village located in the Kalol taluka has alleged that persons from the majority community came to various farms in the early hours on Wednesday. The group allegedly set ablaze a tractor, water pumps, electric meters and wires. They also damaged water supply pipelines in farms.
The victims alleged that the incident had its roots in an altercation and a clash that had taken place last week over sexual harassment of a girl in the village. Separate offences for sexual harassment and rioting between members of both communities were registered at that time.
Deputy superintendent of police V R Bajpai said that attempts were being made to bring the two communities together. The district administration is also cooperating with the police in these efforts.
“The village has Hindu and Muslim community members staying in close vicinity. If one looks at the incidents of trouble there, they are due to petty issues,” Bajpai said. Last year, two incidents of rioting took place in Eral in May and June over petty reasons. In 2002, seven persons were killed and two women were raped in the village. Ismail Sheikh, a resident of Eral, said that there were a handful of persons who were responsible for the trouble at the village.
“The atmosphere was vitiated on Thursday and we were not feeling safe here,” Shaikh said. The village has witnessed a massacre in the 2002 riots but calm returned and there were no major incidents after it.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based at Ahmedabad. He is the Editor of Gujarat Siyasat newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org