Bhopal: A house and an auto-rickshaw of two Muslim families were set on fire in Madhya Pradesh's Khandwa district on Thursday night, a day after a local Hindu man threatened Ye Hinduon Ki colony hai, Yaha Muslim Nahi Chahiye (this is a Hindu colony, we don't want Muslims here).
According to Khandwa police, properties of three families were attacked, two Muslims and one Hindu, on Thursday night allegedly by Bunty Upadhyay, who lives meters away from the victim families.
Khandwa police has registered five FIRs in Kotwali police station against Upadhyay under sections 435, 294, 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in connection with the incident and formed a team to capture the accused.
This comes a week after three members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) dragged a Muslim man and his Hindu travelling companion out of an Ajmer-bound train at Ujjain railway station in Madhya Pradesh, accusing the former of 'love jihad'.
The matter came to light after a video of the incident went viral on Twitter with a misleading caption calling it 'love-Jihad'.
On the evening of January 14, 30-year-old Asif Shaikh was travelling with a family friend, 26-year-old Sakshi Jain, when VHP men dragged them out of the train compartment. Both are residents of Indore. Police let Shaikh and Jain go after recording their statements and discovering that they were family friends. Both passengers refused to register complaints, and the Government Railway Police did not take action against the VHP members either.
The victims of the Khandwa incident were identified as Shoukat Ali, Saleem Beg and Chandrakanta. They are residents of Kodiya Hanuman Mandir locality, which falls under the Kotwali police station of Khandwa district.
"A locked house of Ali, an auto-rickshaw of Beg and the backyard of Chandrakanta were set on fire on Friday night allegedly by Upadhyay. Five FIRs have been registered under relevant sections of the IPC after the victims registered complaints. A team has been formed to arrest the accused," said Vivek Singh, superintendent of police, Khandwa district, over the phone.
However, the Muslim families claimed they were attacked because of their religious identity, as Upadhyay had threatened them to leave the locality a day before the incident. But despite repeated oral complaints, police only registered the case of mere attack without mentioning the reason for the attack.
"On January 20, Upadhyay came to our house and threatened our two teenage children to leave the house else they would be burnt alive after hurling religious remarks. He said, "Ye Hinduon Ki colony hai, Yaha Muslim Nahi Chahiye (this is a Hindu colony, we don't want Muslims here)." We lodged an FIR late in the evening and in the morning, our auto-rickshaw worth Rs 2.5 lakh was burnt to ashes," said 51-year-old Beg, who drives an auto-rickshaw to earn a living for a family of four.
Town inspector Kotwali police station Baljeet Singh Bisen that as per the complaint, on January 5, Upadhyay attacked Ali on his head with a beer bottle after he objected to Upadhyay abusing the Muslim community. Standing close to Ali's house, Upadhyay passed abusive remarks against the Muslim community while drinking beer with his accomplice.
The attack left Ali gravely injured, and he was discharged on January 9. Police arrested Upadhyay on charges of half murder and put him behind bars while the victim family went to Indore, fearing another attack by Upadhyay's accomplice.
Speaking over the phone, the town inspector of Kotwali police station said that Upadhyay got bail on January 19. The following day, he attacked Ali's sister Kamroon Bi with a rubber pipe and allegedly threatened Muslim families of the locality to move out else face the consequences.
"Two FIRs were registered against Upadhyay for attacking and threatening Muslims on January 20. The following day, Beg's auto-rickshaw, Ali's house and Chandrakanta's backyard were found charred."
After learning that their house had been set on fire, Ali's wife Akeela Bi and her family returned to Khandwa to find only charred remains of what was once their house. They then registered an FIR with the Khandwa Kotwali police station.
At the Kotwali police station, three FIRs have been registered against Upadhyaya under section 436 of the IPC for setting three houses on fire. He has also been booked under sections 294, 323 and 506 of the IPC for beating up Ali's sister Kamroon Bi when she was sitting outside her house alone.
"Upadhyay first beat up my sister-in-law Kamroon bi after realising that she was still at home while the rest of us had left. He also beat up two other women before setting our house on fire,' explained Akeela Bi over the phone.
Akeela Bi also alleged that Upadhyay constantly asked the family to move out, stating that there was no place for Muslims there.
This is not just a standalone attack on minorities in Madhya Pradesh. The state has seen a sharp jump in hate cases against minorities since BJP returned to power in March 2020 after overthrowing the 15-month-old Congress government in the state. Recently, a school run by Christian missionaries in Vidisha district was attacked by the members of Bajrang Dal and VHP.