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School empty, cops at every corner as police probe flogging of Muslim men in Gujarat’s Undhela

Police Inquiry Has Been Ordered Into Public Flogging Of Muslim Men By Cops In Plain Clothes. Incident Happened Day After 'stones Were Pelted' At Garba Event In Undhela.

Police personnel deployed in Undhela village | Janki Dave | ThePrint

Kheda: Two days after nearly a dozen Muslim men were held against a pillar at a chowk in Undhela village and caned by plain-clothed policemen, Gujarat police Thursday ordered an inquiry into the incident.

At around 1:50 pm on 4 October, 10 Muslim men — accused of disrupting a garba event and indulging in violence the previous night — were held against a pillar and caned by cops, one of whom was carrying a holstered firearm. Villagers had told ThePrint earlier that they were called to the chowk to witness the public flogging Tuesday. 

Chowk in Undhela village where Muslim men were flogged | Janki Dave | ThePrint

While this demonstration of mob justice has evoked outrage and criticism from various quarters, no action has been taken yet against the cops in question.

“I have received the order for an inquiry into the incident today, and will go through the videos and ascertain facts,” V.N. Solanki, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Kapadvanj taluka, told ThePrint Thursday. He added that a report will be submitted at the earliest.

Schools vacant, lanes quiet 

Meanwhile, the hamlet of Undhela in Gujarat’s Kheda district — shrouded in an uneasy silence — has been fortified with cops in uniform at every corner and a 24/7 watch at the chowk where the flogging took place.

While shops reopened and farmers returned to their fields Thursday, empty lanes and quiet corners narrated the story of how the last two days of Navratri unfolded in Undhela.

The primary school in the village where 465 students are enrolled, too, reopened but not a single student was present there Thursday. “There is a curfew-like environment in the village. All 13 teachers of the school were present yesterday. We had a meeting with the teachers, sarpanch and representatives of the communities to ensure children return to school”, said Kheda district primary education officer, Kamlesh Patel. 

Villagers did participate in garba on 5 October, however, not in the main chowk and not without recounting what happened on 3 October. Most villagers there had more to say about what they termed ‘unprovoked violence’ by local Muslims.

“This is not the first and last time we have seen violence, but we are not scared, we will do the aarti (prayer) at the temple in chowk,” Undhela resident Poonam Singh Sisodia had told ThePrint on Dussehra day.

Dilip Patel, who suffered an injury on his head when stones were allegedly pelted Monday, claims there has always been a divide between communities in the village.

“They [Muslims] say that no loudspeaker should be used for our [Hindu] festival at the chowk because of the madrasa there. But we have our temple right there. On the night of 3 October, they allowed people to gather and started attacking us at around 11 pm. See now, their part of the village is dark, most of them have fled,” said Patel.

Asked about the developments, two local elderly Muslim men said they had no knowledge of either of the two incidents – the violence on 3 October and public flogging the next day.

Mandir maan kanku na chaanta padva joiye, lohi nahi (a temple should have red turmeric spots, not blood),” said Indravadan Patel, the sarpanch of Undhela village.

Patel, who organised the garba on 3 October, told ThePrint: “Violence on 3 October was planned. It was intentional, many people involved in the violence are absconding. They [Muslims] attacked our children and wives, didn’t even spare cops who rushed to the spot.”

However, Patel denied being present at the chowk the next day when the accused were publicly flogged. “I was away, maybe the cops went a bit overboard but these men who incited violence, threw stones, came with lathis must be punished,” he said.