Though it is widely believed that the Muzaffarnagar riots started with an attack on a Jat convoy by a Muslim mob on 7 September, details of the preliminary investigations by the police suggest a different narrative. According to the FIRs accessed by TEHELKA, more Muslims were killed in the violence at Jauli village than Hindus.
The FIRs registered so far mention the death of only seven persons. Four of them were Muslims. And the only person recorded as missing is also a Muslim. The bodies of the four Muslims were found at the site of violence and that of the three Hindus were fished out from the Jauli canal that runs through the village.
Eighty percent of Jauli’s 5,000 residents are Muslims and the canal separates the Hindu and Muslim parts of the village.
On 7 September, a group of Jats were allegedly waylaid by an armed mob of Muslims at Jauli while returning on tractors from the ‘Bahu-Beti Izzat Bachao Jat Mahapanchayat’ at Nangla Mandaur, about 10 km away. More than a lakh Jats had assembled at the mahapanchayat to protest against the alleged “one-sided” police action following the killing of two Jat cousins and a Muslim youth at Kawal village. According to local accounts, the Muslim youth was stabbed to death on 27 August because he was allegedly stalking the school-going sister of one of the Jat cousins. In retaliation, a group of Muslims allegedly beat the cousins to death.
Rumours that a large number of Jats were massacred at Jauli — many of whom were thrown into the canal — led to communal riots spreading across Muzaffarnagar and parts of the neighbouring Shamli district over the next two days, killing 52 and rendering 50,000 homeless.
But, according to the FIRs, four Muslims — Latafat, Nazar Mohammed, Salman and Mohammed Nazim — were killed at Jauli, while Nissar from the nearby Kisanpur village went missing.
The Hindus killed were Ajay Kumar, Sohanveer Singh and Brijpal Rana.
While the details in the FIRs point to a violent clash between two mobs and not a one-sided attack by Muslims, many eyewitnesses and survivors refuse to believe that only three Jats were killed.
Bagesh, a Jat from Jauli told TEHELKA that he had seen an armed Muslim mob hiding in the sugarcane fields near the village. “I was standing on the other side of the Jauli canal when I saw them attack the convoy of around 15 tractors returning from the mahapanchayat,” he says. “The mayhem continued for over an hour. People were killed and thrown into the canal. I cannot believe that only three Jats were killed.”
Baba Hari survived the Jauli attack with bullet injuries in his leg. “I was not part of the Jat convoy, but got caught in the violence while returning on a bike from a nearby temple,” he says. “I couldn’t keep an exact count, but I am sure at least a dozen Hindus were killed in the attack.”
However, according to a senior police officer, all complaints of dead or missing persons have been recorded. “It’s been more than a month since the incident but if we receive more complaints, we will register additional cases,” says the officer, who didn’t want to be named. “There was perhaps a major confrontation between people from the two communities. Had there been a one-sided attack by an armed Muslim mob, many more Jats would have been killed. But let’s wait for the SIC (Special Investigation Cell, set up after the riots) to finish its probe and come out with the truth.”
A senior officer of the SIC told TEHELKA that what really happened at Jauli on 7 September will become clear only after the investigations are completed. “Our investigation into every riot incident will be based on the facts and not on any of the narratives doing the rounds,” he says.