Close to 3,000 Muslim families in Balkonda village in Nizamabad district who were observing the holy month of Ramadan were in for a rude shock after they were socially boycotted until police intervened on Wednesday. The boycott affected the community economically, hampering their festivities. While it is uncertain for how long the discrimination continued, police said that they learnt about the incident just a couple of days ago.
According to the police, the village development committee (VDC), an unauthorised body known to pass controversial and unconstitutional diktats similar to khap panchayats, allegedly imposed a social boycott on Muslims, Gouds and Padmashi community in the village over a land dispute involving Hindus and Muslims.
VDCs are unelected bodies, meant for developing villages. However, most often they end up as an association of upper castes who pass discriminatory diktats against oppressed communities.
Reportedly, the VDC alleging that these three communities are working against the interest of the village directed non-Muslim villagers not to talk to Muslims or conduct any trade with them. Penalties were levied on non-Muslims for several â€śoffencesâ€ť. A fine of Rs 5,000 was levied on a non-Muslim for speaking with a Muslim; Rs 20,000 for having tea in a restaurant owned by a Muslim and making a purchase from a general store run by Muslims, according to reports.
However, before the tensions could spiral into violence, police learnt the about incident. Subsequently, after receiving a complaint of social discrimination, they filed charges against 20 persons under section 385 of IPC (extortion) on May 28.
The land dispute in question has been ongoing between Hindus and Muslims since 2015. However, the dispute came to fore again as Muslims, who were occupied with Ramzan, did not appear for the hearings related to the dispute.
Speaking to TNM, Balkonda SI Srihari said, â€śThis land dispute has been happening since 2015. This disputed land is in the village outskirts adjoining the lake. The Hindus claim that the land belongs to them and is meant for cattle grazing, while the Muslims contend that the land is their graveyard.â€ť
Srihari said that a temporary truce was achieved in 2015 after the police advised both the parties to resolve the issue through the Lok Adalat. While the dispute was being heard at the Lok Adalat, the Muslims didnâ€™t appear for the hearings, as a result of which the agitated VDC went ahead with the discriminatory boycott.
â€śThe reason Muslims couldnâ€™t come for the hearings is because they are occupied with Ramzan fasting,â€ť the SI added.
Besides filing cases, Armoor Assistant Commissioner of Police A Ramulu and the local police gathered the villagers on May 29 and counselled them against such social discrimination. Following their instructions, the boycott was called off on the same day.
Further, to promote friendship and harmony between the two groups, the police also hosted an Iftar party in which all the villagers partook and dined together, shedding their differences.
â€śThe tension in the village has eased now,â€ť said the SI.
Though the tensions have temporarily eased, the dispute over the land is still underway.