Fifteen years after he first moved to Gurgaon from Panchi village in Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat district, Mohammad Sajid is contemplating leaving the city for good. On Thursday evening, a mob of "20-25 men" had barged into his home, attacked him and his relatives with rods and sticks, and told them to "go to Pakistan".
"We are planning to either move back to our village or to Delhi. If this has happened here once, it can happen again. Even if something like this happens in our village, at least we will have 15-20 people who will stand by us. We are entirely alone here," said Sajid, who owns a furniture repair shop in Gurgaon's Ghasola village, and had built a home for his wife and six children in Bhoop Singh Nagar colony in Dhumaspur village three years ago.
According to the FIR registered at Bhondsi police station, the incident took place when Sajid's relatives had come to visit since Holi was a holiday. In the complaint, his nephew, Dilshad, alleged that trouble started when two men confronted boys from the family, who were playing cricket in a vacant plot near the house, by telling them: "What are you doing here? Go to Pakistan and play." When Sajid intervened, one of the two men on the bike slapped him, Dilshad alleged.
In the moments that followed, the duo were joined by several others, allegedly armed with sticks, rods and swords, who barged into the family's home, attacked them and stole their valuables. Videos recorded by the victims show them trying to close the door to the terrace, even as the accused try to break it down. A group of men can be seen beating up a man with rods and sticks, while another lies in the corner, even as two woman plead with the attackers to stop. "Why are you coming into the house, we have small children… Don't hit the children," they shout.
Dilshad, who lives in Badshahpur and sustained a fracture in his left arm, claimed the violence was "unprovoked". "There are people who are saying we must have said something to them, which is not true. We can't pick a fight with such men - they are more powerful, they have more land. We are poor and have small houses, how can we fight them?" said Dilshad.
"Even people who think we said something, do they also think it is justified for them to hit our children? My son was hiding under the bed when this happened, but they slapped my four-year-old niece and grabbed my one-year-old niece and threw her on the bed. My son woke up crying this morning, afraid they were coming again to hit us. What do I tell him?" he said.
On Saturday, as several political parties condemned the incident, shards of glass on the road outside the two-storey home, shattered window panes and two damaged motorcycles were a stark reminder of what happened two days earlier. In the three years he has lived in this house, and the 15 he spent in Gurgaon, Sajid said this is the first time the family has experienced such violence.
"I used to stay on rent in Ghasola earlier, and moved here in 2016. We have always kept to ourselves, and nobody in the neighbourhood has troubled us. These boys were not from the area; police say they are from a village nearby," said Sajid. "This house was my dream, I invested all my savings and spent around Rs 20 lakh to build it. But now I think it's better to leave. We are not safe here," he said. His wife, Sameena, said: "I kept asking them to leave us alone, but they did not listen… They beat us up; I was hit on the shoulder and thigh with a stick."
Balraj Bhadana, the councillor of the area, said the situation would not be allowed to escalate. "This is a peaceful area, where people from all communities have been residing without any conflict for many years. This violence occurred because of a fight between two groups, but it is being politicised and given a communal angle," claimed Bhadana.
"However, there is no denying that people have been beaten and injured, and my attempt is to ensure that those behind the violence are punished and peace is maintained. I have met the injured and reassured them of the same," he said.
Police have made one arrest so far, with the accused being identified as 24-year-old Mahesh Kumar, a resident of Naya Gaon, a village located barely 2 km away from Dhumaspur. He was apprehended from Bhondsi on Friday evening. "The accused was produced in court today and taken into police remand for one day. We have identified almost all the people involved in the crime and expect to make more arrests soon," said Dinesh Kumar, ACP (Sohna).
Haji Shehzad Khan, chairman of the Muslim Ekta Manch, which has been assisting the victim's family, however, said, "We were assured of a speedy investigation and quick action yesterday, but only one person has been arrested so far. We have warned police that if more progress is not made and more people are not apprehended on Sunday, we will reach the commissioner's office on Monday to demand action."