As mobs burn houses, a police station turns into refugee camp

More than 300 residents of four villages around Muzaffarnagar will call the Foghana police station their home for the foreseeable future. Under attack for four hours on Sunday afternoon, the villagers were rescued in a painstakingly slow rescue that was completed amidst firing.

"I don't remember how many people attacked the village. They started firing rounds at our homes from the fields and soon they were hurling petrol bombs. My house, my belongings and my life's savings were burned to the ground," said Iqbal Ansari from Bhavdi village.

District Magistrate Raj Kaushal Sharma, who rushed to the affected area, said, "This area is adjacent to the neighbouring Shamli district. At least six villages, including Bhavdi, Lakh, Hassanpur and Lisad, witnessed violence on Sunday. After driving back rioters, we rescued several families from these villages."

According to Sharma, part of the police and security forces provided covering fire while the remaining force went inside the village in any vehicle available.

"We put them all on trucks and even as the operation in the village continued, we escorted them out of the area," Sharma said. He added that the Foghana police station had been turned into a virtual fortress.

While some residents were escorted to homes of relatives in other parts of the region, the majority were left homeless. "All my relatives moved away from Uttar Pradesh years ago. There is nowhere we can go, so we will have to stay in this police station for as long as it takes," said Ansari.

But the Foghana police station was never built to sustain so many people. A police officer said, "There are but two toilets and one hand-pump for water and there are several hundred stranded here. It is difficult, but these are difficult times."

Sources in the district administration said this particular belt was affected since the population of Muslims here is negligible.

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