In the Muslim-dominated Taprana village of Shamli district in western Uttar Pradesh, a leaflet stuck outside close to fifty Muslim homes read:
This house is for sale. We are forced to flee the village due to ransacking and destruction by the police and its informers. Our children and women are mentally compelled to leave the village.
These Muslim families—90 percent of Taprana’s population comprises Muslims—had decided to leave after an attack that occurred on the intervening night of 26 and 27 May. Residents alleged that around two hundred police personnel, members of the Provincial Armed Constabulary, or PAC, and local informers attacked the villagers. They severely beat up dozens of Muslim residents—including a 13-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man with a mental disability—verbally abused them, ransacked their homes, and destroyed their belongings. The police were so barbaric, villagers said, that they brutally beat up children and senior citizens, used slurs against the women, and even thrashed the cattle tied in the courtyard of a house. Some residents further alleged that the police personnel looted their savings and valuables such as jewellery.
According to local residents, police officials from the nearby Jhinjhana police station first showed up in Taprana on 25 May, on Eid, to arrest two brothers named Afzal and Imran. The brothers were accused of cow slaughter and had been ordered to leave the district. The police received information that the two had come home for Eid. Jamshed Ali, a 65-year-old resident, said that when the police arrived to arrest Afzal and Imran on the night of 25 May, Afzal unsuccessfully attempted to flee. Meanwhile, their family members and some villagers gathered to persuade the police to not take them away that night. “They requested the police, saying that he is not a murderer,” Ali said. “They told the police, that ‘you could have come in the morning, or asked us, and we would have sent him’ … But the policemen said he was guilty of having entered the district when he had been asked to stay away, and insisted on taking him.” An argument ensued, but the police relented.
The next evening, the police came back at around 10 pm. Afzal and Imran were not at home, a neighbour told us, on the condition of anonymity. He said that the police asked the villagers and the family to ensure “turn in the brothers or face the consequences.” An hour later, villagers located and accompanied Afzal to the police station, to turn him in—Imran remained absconding, according to the neighbour. A few hours later, several residents told us, police personnel surrounded the village and began to ransack homes and beat up residents. Members of the PAC accompanied the police on its rampage, locals alleged. Ali said, “about 200 police and PAC jawans in 10 or 12 cars came for the first house in the street and made their way, one by one, until the last one.”