To be part of Moradabad, clerics in Uttar Pradesh boycott polio drive and schools

Lucknow

Local clerics in nearly 30 Muslim dominated villages in Sambhal district have given a call from mosques to boycott the polio immunisation drive to pressure the government into making their villages part of Moradabad district.

The clerics have also told villagers to stop sending their children to school, forbidden them from attending political rallies, and banned the entry of politicians into the villages.

Any family that disobeys will be fined Rs 500.

The Sambhal district administration has taken strong note, and threatened to invoke the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against anyone obstructing the polio immunisation drive.

Following the boycott call, the November 24 immunisation drive fell flat. Around 10 villages witnessed a total boycott; the others saw a partial boycott. Children have not been attending school, and teachers have been warned against taking classes.

"They are playing with the future of the children. We are identifying these families. Stern warning has been issued to them today as their boycott call is not tolerable," Sambhal district magistrate Lal Bihari Pandey said. He said top officials have been sent to the villages to ensure the immunisation drive is not obstructed.

Villagers leading the agitation said they were in the right.

"Our demand is justified. Moradabad is hardly 5 km from our villages, whereas Bahjoi, the headquarters of Sambhal, is about 70 km away. There is no direct transport link to Bahjoi, and we have to travel to Moradabad to find conveyance for Bahjoi," said Zulfikhar Ahmed, a member of Swabhiman Bachao Andolan.

The Andolan includes villagers who have been staging a dharna at the divisional headquarters since November 27 to press their demand.

Pandey said he was aware of the villagers' problems.

"I concede that they may be facing problems, but we are already considering the matter, and demarcation will be done shortly. There are some problems... Due to the creation of the new district, we have some overlapping of police stations and revenue villages," Pandey said.

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