A 60-year-old was killed in Parsoi village in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district on the night of March 20, allegedly following a dispute over a concrete platform where some of the villagers kept tazias during Muharram.
According to the FIR lodged at Obra police station, under whose jurisdiction Parsoi falls, the victim, Mohammed Anwar, was attacked when he tried to prevent a group of people from demolishing the platform. Ravindra Kharwar, a government school teacher, has been named as the main accused in the FIR along with 14 others, 11 of them juveniles.
Naeem Ghazipuri, Anwar’s elder brother, alleges the concrete platform was never a cause of dispute between the Muslims and the dominant Scheduled Tribes in the village, until Kharwar joined the government junior high school six months ago and, according to the FIR, "began holding a Sangh shakha near the platform".
"The village pradhan got the platform built in 2007 to keep tazias during Muharram and all people in the village used to participate in the procession. But after the teacher came to the village six months ago, he instigated some of the villagers and got it demolished once, but the administration brokered a compromise between the two communities and got it rebuilt," he says.
About a month ago, some people allegedly demolished the platform again and this time too, the administration got it rebuilt. "On the eve of Holi, some people arrived and started demolishing it again," alleges the FIR filed by the victim’s son Mohammad Ainul, adding that when his father intervened, the 20-odd people present there allegedly attacked him with axes and sticks, before strangling Anwar with his own scarf.
Naeem also alleged that "while the plan for demolition was made by the teacher", he himself did not come to the spot and had engaged a group of people, including the juveniles, to break down the structure.
Seven of those named in the FIR, including five juveniles, were held on Saturday while Kharwar is on the run.
Investigating Officer Inspector Vijay Singh said that among the arrested accused is Rajesh Prajapati, who ran a private school adjacent to the government school.
Sonbhadra District Magistrate Ankit Kumar said a probe has been initiated against the teacher. "Action will be taken on the basis of the report," said Kumar, while adding that he was not aware of Kharwar running any shakha in the area near the platform.
"The disputed land belongs to the gram sabha and we had intervened some time ago, after which the two sides had reached a compromise," the DM said.
The RSS's Kanshi prant karyawahak, Bankey Lal Yadav, denied knowing Kharwar and said he wasn’t associated with the outfit in any manner.
The accused have been booked under IPC Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 302 (murder).