A brick-lane road, branching out of the main highway, takes one to Naya Gaon, Akbarpur in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district. A nondescript locality of over 5,000 people, Naya Gaon boasts of a reverse trend where Muslims outnumber Hindus by a ratio of 9:1. It is also a place where something has changed. Apart from an eerie calm prevailing on the streets on account of the massive uniformed manpower deployed, villagers seldom speak unless they are huddled in with members of their own community.
Inside the Shiv temple, removing the loudspeakers of which thrust this village into national prominence as well as a communal cauldron, villagers vividly point out how it all began with the general election in which voting for the village was to take place on April 17. “Our two loudspeakers have been here since decades, would play twice a day for thirty minutes. Two days before the election, they complained about it. And when they did so, even we protested against the loudspeakers atop their mosque,” said Vijay Singh, pointing towards the neighbouring mosque and its loudspeakers. Singh, a labourer who resides in Naya Gaon with his family, believes there is politics at play here. When asked, Singh and others with him said they were aware of the lurking danger of a communal flare up taking place in their village.However, their fear emanates not so much from their fellow villagers as much as the possibility of their being ‘used by outsiders’. Having blamed the administration for its lapses, they are now thankful for the police deployment.
Exactly a month to this day was when the loudspeakers were finally taken off by the police. They claimed it was done by beating men and women who opposed the police’s actions. They claim 19 villagers have been jailed and cases slapped which they wanted withdrawn. Did they then ask the BJP to intervene? “No, we are all BSP voters so why would we invite BJP here. Anyway it is all a drama, irrespective of the party it is,” said Singh. Not all agree. “If the BJP does help us, we will support it,” said the priest of the temple, Babaji Hoshiarnath.Not too far away and separated by a police detachment is where the Ansari family lives. A middle-aged woman, when approached, shut the door. “All the male members are near that tree,” she yelled, pointing towards a banyan tree.
“Yes, we had a problem with the loudspeakers and had complained. There is no harm is putting up loudspeakers as long as it is within the law,” said Karimuddin, a resident.
When informed about the objection against the loudspeakers in their mosque, he replied, “Those loudspeakers have been there for decades now, before they got their loudspeakers.” Even as BJP leaders attempted to converge at the village and had their plans foiled by the security blanket, speaking about the case, District Magistrate Deepak Aggrawal said, “In this case, we have the High Court’s directions that the loudspeakers can be put up only after we permit. Thus the complaint voiced by these leaders that the loudspeakers are old and thus do not require a permission fall flat now.”
As the shutters which were downed in anticipation of violence were slowly lifted, normalcy returned to Akbarpur. However, that is unlikely to change much on the ground. Karimuddin declared, as if assuring himself, “Neither of us have anything to fear. We can live in peace.”Not too far away a senior policeman posted on security duty revealed, “In my entire service, there has not been a single instance of communal clash here. Wonder how this has happened.” Pointing towards the highway, “May be the answer lies away, far away from Akbarpur.”