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Scuffle over petty issue causes communal tension in Latifabad

Scuffle over petty issue causes communal tension in Latifabad

HYDERABAD: Members of the Christian community took out a rally and held a demonstration outside the local press club on Sunday following arrest of two fellow community members for resorting to firing and wounding three persons a day earlier.

St. Joseph Colony action committee members Advocate Mehmood Qadir, Nazeer Masih, Pervez Bhatti and others demanding release of the suspects, Vicki Masih and his brother-in-law, Lavi Masih, told journalists that a group of “unruly men” working at the water filter plant located at the entrance of their colony engaged the suspects into a scuffle, chased them into their house and beat them up. They claimed that the unruly men also fired shots on the house.

They said Vicki and Lavi also fired shots in retaliation which might have left three of the intruders wounded.

St. Joseph Colony, situated in Latifabad Unit-10, witnessed ugly scenes on Saturday evening when a scuffle took place between some of its residents, including Vicki Masih and Lavi Masih, on the one side, and Waheed Rajput (who runs the water plant) and some of his employees including Mohammed Shaukat and Mohammed Ismail, on the other. More people joined both sides in the heated arguments that followed and continued for many hours. During the episode, shots were fired leaving Shaukat and Ismail wounded. Mr Rajput also suffered injuries. The victims were taken to the Govt Shah Bhitai Hospital in Latifabad Unit-5 from where Shaukat and Ismail were referred to the Liaquat University Hospital for treatment of their grave wounds.

An FIR (53/2016) was registered against Vicki Masih, Lavi Masih, Aslam, Sona, Faryad and some unknown suspects on a complaint lodged by Waheed Rajput at Latifabad’s B-Section police station late in the evening. Vicki and Lavi were later arrested.

SHO Akhlaq Hussain Shah said that the trouble actually started when Vicki parked his rickshaw at the filter plant and its operator along with his employees objected to it. According to Mr Rajput and his employees, Vicki had a sound system fitted in his rickshaw and he was loudly playing music. He turned violent when he was asked to switch it off as the sound was disturbing those saying prayers nearby, they claimed.

They alleged that Vicki retreated into his house and fired shots on them from inside after the heated arguments turned into a brawl and led to a scuffle.

Tension between the two sides gripped the entire locality whole the night and finally many residents of St. Joseph Colony, some of them holding the Holy Cross in their hands, took out a rally on Sunday to condemn what they called “attempts to give the matter a religious colour”.

Advocate Qadir told journalists during the demonstration outside the local press club that “some miscreants are bent upon giving religious colour to the matter of garbage dumping, eve-teasing and rickshaw parking in the locality”.

Carrying banners and placards inscribed with such slogans, the protesters demanded release of the two suspects booked on “false charges”.

Advocate Qadir, giving his side’s version of the episode, admitted that Vicki fired shots wounding a couple of men. He said that Vicki riding his rickshaw drove up to the filter plant on Saturday evening to throw domestic garbage on an open plot existing next to it. He said other people of the locality also used to dump garbage on this plot but workers at the water plant objected to Vicki’s act which led to heated arguments and then a scuffle.

“Vicki ran to safety and took refuge in his house but the plant workers chased him into the house and beat up him, his sister and brother-in-law,” Advocate Qadir alleged. Later, the intruders left the house but threw stones and fired shots on it, he further alleged.

“Vicki had to retaliate by firing shots which may have caused wounds to a couple of the intruders,” he said.

Rejecting other allegations against the arrested suspects, Advocate Qadir said Vicki’s rickshaw did not have a sound system fitted in it so there was no question of playing it loudly or otherwise. Secondly, he argued, the episode started at around 4pm which was no prayers timings.

The demonstrators also raised slogans against alleged indecent activities on the part of the people routinely sitting at the filter plant, claiming that dozens of unconcerned youths found it an ideal place for eve-teasing as it was located right at the entrance of the colony.

They urged the authorities to look into the matter, order an inquiry, close down the filter plant and allow the Christian community to lodge their own FIR of the Saturday incident. They also called for taking appropriate measures aimed at preventing mischief makers from pitching the Christian and Muslim communities of the area against each other on different pretext.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2016

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