Rajat Sharma

How fight over Tabeez got a communal twist?

AKBThere was much furore in the social media when a video showing some persons beating up and shaving the beard of a 72-year-old Muslim in Loni near Ghaziabad became viral on Tuesday. Allegations were made that the elderly man was forced to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ by the assailants. Local police said, the video was taken on June 5. The video showed few people beating the elderly Muslim with his lathi and kicking him. One of the assailants cut off his beard even as the old man resisted.

The video surfaced ten days later on Tuesday on Twitter. Those who posted the video alleged that some Hindus had beaten up and cut off the beard of the elderly Muslim. Some alleged that he was forced to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Our reporter Pawan Nara spoke to senior Ghaziabad police officers and the truth soon came out.

The old man Abdul Samad Saifi is a resident of Anoopshahr near Bulandshahr. According to him, he had gone to Delhi-UP Loni border, from where he was abducted in an auto. His abductors took him to a room inside the forest through the canal route, where he was beaten up, kicked and his beard was cut. He alleged that he was forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. While narrating his story and showing injuries on his back, the old man wept.

Ghaziabad police soon verified the content of the video, identified the assailant and launched a manhunt. The main assailant, Parvesh Gurjar was arrested, and he named his colleagues as Arif, Adil, Kallu, Mushahid and Polly. Adil and Kallu were arrested. According to police, the incident took place on June 5, and the elderly Muslim filed FIR two days later on June 7. Though the man said he did not know his assailants, police says, he could be lying because he knew them.

The SP of Ghaziabad rural, said that Abdul Samad Saifi used to make and sell amulets. He had sold his amulets (tabeez) to Parvesh Gurjar and some other villagers. Parvesh’s family thought the occult based amulet was harming the family. According to police, Parvesh and his friends then decided to teach Abdul Samad a lesson and abducted him. Police ruled out any communal angle to this incident, and said it was a criminal case.

The treatment meted out to an elderly citizen is condemnable and cannot be justified. No civilized society can justify such a crime. The main accused Parvesh Gurjar and the occultist Abdul Samad knew each other, and there was no communal angle to it. Abdul Samad says, he was forced to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’, but how was this angle added to this story? Our reporter found another video of Abdul Samad speaking to a local Samajwadi Party leader Umaid Pahalwan, on June 7, two days after the incident. It was Umaid Pahalwan who advised Abdul Samad to add the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ angle to it.

On Tuesday, soon after the video of Abdul Samad’s beard being cut was posed on social media, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said: “Daadhi kaatne se hum daadhi khatm nahin karengey, aur lambi daadhi rakhengey.”( If you cut off our beard, we will not stop, we will keep longer beard). He alleged that the assailants followed Hindutva ideology and pro-Hindutva goons are denying Muslims the right to live.

It was now Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s turn to tweet: “I am not ready to accept that true devotees of Shri Ram will ever do this. Such a cruel act is miles away from humanity and is a shameful blot on society and religion.”

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath himself replied to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet: “ ‘Speak the truth’ is the first lesson of Prabhu Shri Ram, which you never did in your life. It is shameful that even after the police revealed the truth, you are spreading poison in society. In the greed for power, you are shaming humanity. Please stop insulting and defaming the people of Uttar Pradesh.”

Strong words from Yogi Adityanath. The local SP has promised to take action against those who sought to create communal tension by circulating this video. On Tuesday night, an FIR was filed against six persons, including journalists, Twitter and Congress leaders, under sections of Indian Penal Code for sharing the video on social media. The FIR was filed against Twitter Inc, Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd, a fact-checking website Alt News, journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and Shama Mohammed of Congress.

The elderly man’s son Tayyab spoke about the incident to our reporter in their home in Bulandshahr, but he did not mention that his father was forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Tayyab said his father has gone into depression about the incident, and he wanted that the perpetrators of the crime must be punished and his father should get justice.

Those who beat up the elderly man and shaved off his beard, must be punished for this inhuman act. Abdul Samad Saifi must get justice. According to police, there were four Muslims among the assailant, out of whom three have been arrested. Thus, this incident cannot be given a Hindu-Muslim communal twist.

Since Yogi Adityanath is the chief minister of UP, and the state is going for assembly elections next year, political vested interests were out to score brownie points by giving this incident a communal angle. There were some similar incidents in the past, several years ago. In this particular incident, a local SP leder Umaid Pahalwan tried to give it a communal twist, by making Abdul Samad say that he was forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

Had there been no elections next year, this incident would not have been noticed as it was a local crime. Other top leaders would not have jumped into the fray. So long as the run-up to elections will continue, we may see more and more such incidents in the near future.

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