Usman Ahmad, whose family was denied entry into a house that they had bought in Chahashor mohalla, a neighbourhood in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district, has said that they “do not want any trouble” and that people have unnecessarily made this a Hindu-Muslim matter, The Indian Express reported.

On Sunday evening, residents in this Hindu-dominated neighbourhood had protested outside the house when Ahmad’s family tried to take possession of it. The protest was led by members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The previous owner, Sanjay Rastogi, had sold it for Rs 28.30 lakh to Usman’s brother, Nauman Ahmad. The deal was finalised in January, but Nauman Ahmad paid the last installment only on December 8, and went to claim his property a few days later.

“We wanted a house of our own...My father’s on duty at night, so we wanted to buy a house close to the school,” Usman Ahmad said. “Moreover, this house does not have enough space for all of us. But some people made it an issue and said that we were doing land jihad.” Land jihad is an adaptation of the term love jihad, a theory by which fundamentalist groups accuse Muslim men of entrapping Hindu women on the pretext of marriage to convert them to Islam.

“When we reached the house, some people came and said that the house cannot be sold because Rastogi owed them money,” Usman Ahmad said. “While he was explaining that he was in the process of paying debts and that the property had nothing to do with that, some others reached the house and started sloganeering.”

He added: “They said that a Muslim family cannot be given the property.” He said that they spent about Rs 33 lakh on the house. Now, he said, they will transfer the property if the people protesting purchase it for that money.

A transformed Meerut

Many of the Hindu residents of Chahashor mohalla said that the sale of property to Muslims had to be stopped because Meerut has undergone a massive transformation in the past 20 years, during which, they alleged, Muslims have “taken over” Hindu-dominated localities.

While some resident claimed that there was a conspiracy at play, others claimed that they cannot live next to Muslim neighbours. “Their culture, thoughts and way of life are different from ours,” Deepak Sharma, of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, told The Indian Express. “It starts with one house and slowly, the whole area will become Muslim-dominated. We cannot allow this to happen.”