Defying Danger

Three UP teens who saved Muslim neighbours from mob are honoured

Siblings showed great courage during a communal clash in a village near Kanpur.

Insidious campaigns about "love jihad" and temple loudspeakers seem to have their limits. As if to prove this, three Hindu teenagers in  Uttar Pradesh's Ghatampur braved a rioting mob last month to help their Muslim neighbours escape from a burning house.

Earlier this week, the three siblings were given awards by the Indian National League for their bravery. “It is an act of humanity and an example set for those who value religion and hatred over an innocent human life,” said Rajiv Yadav, a human rights activist in the area.

Fourteen-year-old Divya Vajpayee, sister Kavya, 15, and brother Abhay, 11, of Bhitargaon village were honoured for risking their lives to rescue Usman Khan and his family.

The riot occurred after a boy named Guddu Tiwari was beaten up on August 22, after he was allegedly caught red-handed stealing Rs 13,000 in cash and five gold rings from the home of Ramzan Ali, who runs a grocery shop.

But the police at Ghatampur station refused to register a case against Tiwari, said human rights activist Yadav, telling Ali to work out a compromise.

Two days later, a mob assembled in front of the homes of Ali and his relatives in Bhitargaon, claiming that they had murdered Tiwari. They broke into the homes of 17 Muslim homes and set them on fire.

“These anti-social elements were local BJP cadre in the area,” alleged Yadav. “In this village there are about 150 Muslims and 5,000 Hindus. They have tried for a while to instigate a communal clash to drive the Muslim families out.”

Ejaz Husain, 33, a poultry farmer, and Zahida Khatoon, 23, a relative of Ramzan Ali, died from burn injuries. Seventeen others are seriously injured and are being treated at the Ursula Horsman Memorial Hospital in Kanpur.

“Those three children managed to save five lives,” said Mohammad Sulaiman, the president of the Indian National League. “They did not care about the religion of the family. For them what mattered was that their friends and family were inside a burning house. If a teenager can understand this, why can’t these political or religious groups show compassion?”

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