KAIRANA: Sitting inside the corner of his grocery shop in the Chowk Bazaar in UP’s Kairana, Varun Singhal, looks taut at the memory of a gory incident that turned his family’s life upside down.
His brother Vinod Kumar Singhal was shot dead in full public glare with bullets pumped inside him, a brutal crime that triggered exodus by several Hindu traders in this neighbourhood and continues to rankle entire community
His face darkens at the mere mention of the fateful day. This even as the murderer Mohammad Fukran has now been sent to jail with a 10-year term after a local court convicted him with a sentence on January 9, barely 30 days before Kairana goes to polls.
Standing gingerly at the altar of his ship, Varun murmurs, “Atmosphere at the time was very tense and no trader felt secure. Shops used to shut early in the evening at around 6 pm those days.. There was fear among the trader community. Most started leaving because of the incidence of extortion and murders in the area.“
Even today, the mistrust lingers. So much that they are ready to move out of Kairana again, saying if Samajwadi Party (SP) government returns.
“It can be a dangerous situation again any day. It can be as dangerous as it was before 2017 if the BJP government changes in the state, we will pack our bags and leave Uttar Pradesh. We will stay only if the government remains,” says Sajan Kumar.
As action shifts to Kairana in first phase of UP polls, The New Indian team speaks to more local vendors and shopkeepers.
“There is so much change in the situation. People used to live in fear but now they are happy after a decade. Situation was very bad earlier. Murders used to happen here ever now and then. Extortion at the face of a gun was the order of the day,” says Rakesh Garg, a wholesale trader.
Another trader Vijay Mittal recalls how his trader brothers were killed or extorted by gangsters with support of SP but the visit by CM Yogi Adityanath in November came as reassurance on security for these Hindu traders.
“He assured them that no such incidents would occur again and they can trade and work freely and securely,” remarks Mittal.
Such is the sense of anxiety that a permanent unit of UP Police’s Pradeshik Armed Constabulary (PAC) remains stationed at Chowk Bazar upto 3 km range.
Garg also recalls how police for 10 years were afraid of visiting victims’ homes for fear of being shunted out of their jobs.
“No action was taken. A lot of protests and riots happened, markets used to shut down for 8-10 days but no action was taken at that time on attackers,” says Garg.
While UP Police last week arrested sitting MLA Nahid Hasan of SP, the fear continues to loom large.
Alleging that the population of Kairana was rapidly touching 93% for Muslims, BJP MPs and MLAs in the past have approached the home ministry to find a suitable solution to ensure families are given a secure and permanent place to live and grow.
In 2016, BJP had sent its own team to ascertain charges of exodus and found more than 115 families were missing while visit five Opposition parties comprising JD(U) secretary-general K C Tyagi , Mohd Salim of CPM, D Raja of CPI, D P Tripathi of NCP and Manoj Jha of RJD too had visited the site.
While SP has now joined hands with RLD to field Hasan again for the Vidhan Sabha polls, it had lost 2019 Lok Sabha election in Kairana to BJP’s Pradeep Choudhary even though it had won the by-poll in 2018 with Hasan’s mother Tabassum as the candidate on the support of Muslims.