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Noida: Helps who mobbed housing society banned, is this the beginning of a class war?

Residents of Mahagun Moderne society on Sunday decided that around 60 domestic helps who were caught on camera supporting the mob that had stormed the society on July 12 will be banned from the housing complex.

Helps who did not take part in the protest and share a good rapport with their employers will be allowed to resume work on Monday.

A riot-like situation was caused last week when a mob stormed into the society premises and vandalised a resident, Harshu Sethi's, house. Over 300 people had gathered at the gates of the Mahagun Moderne around 6am, alleging that Sethi had assaulted Zohra Bibi who was employed as her domestic help.

The crowd had managed to overpower the security guards and forcefully enter the premises. Sethi's house was ransacked by the mob.

Following the incident, the society had banned all helps from entering the premises in a sign of protest against the hooliganism created by Bibi's supporters.

The society management on Sunday decided that they will review the CCTV footage of July 12 to identify those who were a part of the mob. "Helps who assisted the mob in creating a ruckus won't be allowed to work in the society. It's a unanimous decision of all the residents. Such people can't be trusted to enter our homes. It is unsafe," a resident of Mahagun Moderne society said.

It seems politics is also entering into the whole issue as Member of Parliament Mahesh Sharma met the residents of Mahugan Moderne society on Sunday and assured them that a police post will be set up in the vicinity to increase police presence in Sector 78.

Earlier some residents tried to give the incident a communal color by referring to the helps as illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants on social media. The claim, however, has been found to be completely false by the police.

The whole chaos began after on Tuesday, Sethi accused Bibi of stealing 17,000 rupees (S$362) from a safe in her apartment. She said Bibi had admitted taking 10,000 rupees in back wages, and then disappeared. Bibi, 30, denies confessing to anything, and said Sethi "kept me locked at her place" that night, an allegation that her husband shared with other residents of the slum. The police say the maid spent the night in the apartment of another employer.

"I don't remember anything," Bibi said in an interview. "The next morning there was a big ruckus. A lot of people came. The guard came and took me out." Sethi, a schoolteacher, described something more frightening. She was in her apartment waking her 8-year-old son for school, she said, when she saw a "huge crowd," led by women, coming toward her unit, shouting, "Today we will kill her; we will kill the madam."

Video shows a loud, aggressive crowd surging toward the complex while security guards try ineffectually to beat it back. Sethi said people in the crowd jumped over the balcony of her ground-floor apartment and shattered a plate-glass door with a flower pot.

Sethi said she pulled her son from a glass-strewn bed and hid in the locked bathroom with her husband for an hour and a half, while the crowd ransacked her apartment.

"We were only thinking of saving our lives," she said in an interview, sobbing, and displayed a heavy iron rod left in the apartment by one of the intruders. "They tried to show that they did not have rights. I feel that we do not have any human rights. We are the poor ones."

Sethi, 34, considers herself a benevolent boss. "We worship them, because they are such an important part of our lives," she said of the maids. "Hindus believe that if you are eating something and someone with an empty stomach is watching you eat, you cannot digest this food. We first feed them and then eat. I would give her tea before making her do her chores."

But she has, she said, lost her faith in that bond. "I think they hate us," she said of the maids. "There is a definite class divide. They hate us for the money, they wonder: 'Why are they so well off, so rich? Why do they have everything?' They envy us, and this is how it comes out."

Bibi, the maid, had a different take on the relationship, saying Sethi had not paid her 3,500 rupees for the past two months, and had falsely accused her of stealing.

"Just because she has money, does she think she will get away with anything?" she said. "All over, everyone is listening to her, and nobody to me. Will she throw us in the garbage just because I am poor?"

Within hours, the conflict had drawn a bright line through the complex, which has 2,700 units, and the residents announced a decision to bar all servants from the complex.

Many are seeing the incident as an indication of a simmering class war. Social activist and journalist, Nilanjana Bhowmik, who has been actively following the developments after the incident, shared the following on social media two days ago:

There are always two sides to a story. And I have been accused of telling only one side of it. So, let's take a look at the two sides of the story. And through facts that are out there in the public domain.

The incident: A couple hires a maid. The maid goes missing and the heat is squarely on them because she was last known to have gone to their house. The woman's family is worried sick. They try looking for her with the help of the police. But when all else fails and the woman is finally handed over to them in a distraught condition, they take a misguided step and turn violent for a few hours on the morning of the incident.

The story is unspooling in a her vs their version. And there are many versions.

According to Zohra, she was beaten up and locked in a room without food and water. According to her employers she stole money and ran away and slept the night at some other resident's house. There's also a third version. The police helped Zohra write her FIR. In that they wrote she was recovered from the basement of the apartment complex.

It's a complex story. There are no straight answers. And especially since everyone has already predecided that Zohra cannot be trusted. So, yes she changed her versions. Please, won't you excuse her for being distraught and incoherent and sick scared for whatever ordeal she went through? You won't, right?

Now let's look at how this incident affected both sides.

The employers : as far as I know have not even been called for questioning. Do correct me if I am wrong and I will edit this post accordingly. Zohra however has been in and out of the police station over the last two days. Them and their supporters have began a malicious campaign of villifying Zohra and diluting her story. They have spun a story of communal hatred through a whatsapp message that has already gone viral. In the msg they disseminate wrong information by calling Zohra a Bangladeshi maid when the police have confirmed her papers were in order. If this is not incitement, what is? They have exploited a climate of communal hatred in the country, especially in a volatile state like UP, to take the heat off themselves. And that is not a punishable offense?

Zohra: All the men in her colony were picked up in the dead of the night by the police, including her minor son. She says she was slapped around by the police and called a drama queen. She has been called a liar, an illegal immigrant. She now has the moral guilt that because of this incident, other maids, her compatriots, have lost their jobs. She too doesn't have a job. She has lost her dignity, her livelihood.

I hope you realize how unequal this fight is? There are four FIRs against Zohra. One against her employer. Zohra's supporters rioted for a few hours and as should have happened have been booked for it. They have spent a night in jail and 13 of them have been remanded in custody. The other side has been inciting violence and hatred on social media nonstop for two days. Has there been a single FIR against them for inciting communal violence? That man who put out that video saying Bangladeshi Muslims are rioting in Noida and that was shared over 5000 times, Is there an FIR against him for inciting communal violence?

So, there you go, your two sides of the story. I hope it helps you choose sides. And I hope you choose the right side.