This Muslim-dominated city was hit by violence six months ago after Quran sacrilege
Ruchika M Khanna & Parvesh Sharma
Tribune News Service
Malerkotla, 19 January 2017. Strangely, it is the elopement of a Hindu girl with a Muslim youth that has become a key issue in this predominantly Muslim constituency where three Muslim candidates representing Punjab’s three main political parties, SAD, Congress and AAP, are in the fray.
The constituency has 70 per cent Muslim voters and 30 per cent Sikh and Hindu voters.
Ten days ago, a 21-year-old daughter of a prominent businessman, fled home with her beau. The couple went to Chandigarh and opted for a registered marriage. The incident may have gone unnoticed, but for the elections.Termed as “love jihad”, it is now being used to rouse tempers and create divisions.
A visit to the business establishment of the girl’s father revealed locked doors. A neighbour, Satinder Singh, said the family had temporarily shifted to Rajpura or Patiala.
Vimal Kumar, who runs a shop near Sirhindi Gate, blamed politicians as well as the district officials for the “plight” of the minorities. “With Malerkotla earning a bad name, young Hindu and Sikh men are unable to find a matrimonial match outside Malerkotla,” he claimed.
Jangir Singh, an electronic goods supplier, said most Hindu and Sikh families had shifted to the newly carved out localities on the outskirts of Malerkotla. “The two communities prefer to reside in self-contained colonies that are well-guarded,” he said.
Malerkotla was rocked by violence in June last year after torn pages of the Quran were found strewn outside a cemetery. Eight persons, including the Superintendent of Police (SP) and his deputy, were injured when a mob clashed with the police.
Another mob attacked the residence of Akali MLA Farzana Nissara Khatoon and torched the security personnel’s room. The police had to fire in the air to disperse the protesters. Two buses and 10 private vehicles were damaged.
Significantly, the RSS, which has been trying to set up shakhas in Punjab’s rural belt, also held a camp in Malerkotla some months ago.