A day after open threats were issued to them, residents of a slum cluster in Palra village of Gurugram’s Sector 70A on Wednesday said most of the families, predominantly from West Bengal, have fled the area. The ones who stayed back live in fear, with some spending the night in a forested area even as the Gurugram police deny any ‘incident’ in the area.
With the flames of the communal violence that began in Mewat region’s Nuh on Monday spreading to Gurugram and other districts of southern Haryana, a mob of members of some right-wing outfits assaulted the slum dwellers in Palra village on Tuesday and told them to “go back where you came from”. Some scrap and tyre puncture shops were also set ablaze in the area at night.
Locals said that nearly 800-900 families live in the slums on rent with most of them employed as garbage collectors, domestic workers, and housekeeping staff in nearby residential societies.
‘Thrashed women more’
Nabeel Ahmad*, a native of West Bengal’s Dakshin Dinajpur who cleans cars for a living, said about 25 motorbikes with two-three men each came to the area around 11 a.m. on Tuesday and started thrashing people indiscriminately while asking for identity proofs.
“While most of them wielded sticks, some carried swords and guns. They asked for names and ID cards and started thrashing us, warning us to vacate by 4 p.m. or they would set the houses on fire,” said Mr. Ahmad, adding that the men thrashed women more. “Maybe they wanted to make a statement that even women will not be spared.”
He said even though the police came soon after, the mob returned around 5.30 p.m. “The police tried to disperse them but did not use any force,” he said.
Shabana Bibi, a domestic worker, said that about 8-10 families spent the night in a forested area close by.
“I have three small children. I fed them biscuits with water and we slept on the ground in the jungle,” she said.
Shafiuddin Ali, a diabetes patient who came to live with his son about seven months ago from a village near Kolkata, said about 90% of Muslim families from the cluster have left since Tuesday.
“Those who are still here have tickets for today (Wednesday) or don’t have the money to buy a train ticket. Some like me don’t have anywhere else to go as we came here after selling everything in our village,” he said.
‘Fake news to blame’
Siddhant Jain, DCP (South Gurugram), blamed rumours on social media for the departures. “This was fake news doing the rounds on social media. No such threat was issued to people from any community. Some stray incident might have happened on Tuesday but we have sufficient deployment of forces to deal with any situation. Everything is peaceful,” he told The Hindu.
He said that 12 FIRs have been registered and preventive action has been taken against six persons under CrPC Sections 107 and 151 in south Gurugram.
(*Names of all slum dwellers changed.)