Lucknow: The video of a Muslim e-rickshaw driver being beaten up and allegedly forced to chant Jai Shri Ram by a group of men reportedly associated with multiple right-wing groups, including Bajrang Dal, in Kanpur, while the man’s daughter crying and pleading for her father to be spared, has invoked widespread outrage.
The incident took place near Kachhi Basti locality near the Ram Gopal crossing in the Barra area of Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.
In the one-minute video, which went viral on social media platforms, 45-year-old Afsaar Ahmad, an e-rickshaw driver, is seen paraded through a street, heckled and assaulted by the group and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
The heart-wrenching video shows Ahmad’s young daughter seen clinging to him and pleading with attackers not to beat her father. Later, some policemen took him to their jeep. It did not stop here. The video also shows the miscreants hitting the man while in police custody while police personnel are seen “mute spectators”.
According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the victim’s family, Ahmad was driving his e-rickshaw at around 3 p.m on Wednesday when a group of men wearing saffron gamchha (towel) started abusing and beating him. They threatened to kill him along with his family members.
Ahmad in his complaint mentioned that he was assaulted over an old dispute by his neighbour. He named Ajay “bandwala”, Ajay’s son Don, Keshu Neta, Ramesh, Rani and 10 other persons as accused.
Meanwhile, an FIR was lodged against five named and 8-10 unknown accused persons for rioting and voluntarily causing hurt at Barra police station. Police claimed it arrested three persons — Ajay, Rahul Kumar and Aman Gupta, in connection with the incident.
Kanpur Police Commissioner Asim Kumar Arun said the three men were arrested on Thursday night. One of the arrested, Aman Gupta, has affiliation to the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), police said, as per a PTI report.
However, all three accused arrested in the connection were released 24 hours of arrests on Friday evening, confirmed Kanpur police.
According to Arun, the assault was linked to a month-old incident that took place between two communities who live in same locality in a slum area of Kachhi Basti.
“The incident of assault that took place on Wednesday comes a month after cases were registered by two communities living in a same area. We had received complaints from both sides and the investigation was going on... A group of people associated with Hindu outfits went to meet one of the family members involved in the dispute, demanding action on their behalf. Suddenly, a group caught hold of Afsaar Ahmad, who is relative of the Muslim family involved in the dispute. They thrashed him. He was later saved by police,” he said.
Kanpur DCP (South) Raveena Tyagi, who went to meet Ahmad’s daughter said in a statement that on July 12 one Quresha Begum had lodged an FIR against a neighbour couple — Ramesh and his wife Rani -- on charges of assault in the Kachhi Basti locality.
“The case was registered under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 323(voluntarily causing hurt) 504 (intentional insult with intent with intent to provide breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation), probe was underway,” she said.
Rani then got an FIR registered against three others named Saddam, Salman and Mukul under IPC Section 354 (whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty), she further stated.
“Investigation in both the cases was going on after both communities filled the complaints. Meanwhile, Rani alleged that the accused were forcing her to convert her religion,” Tyagi said, adding that “outraged over the alleged conversion”, the Hindu outfits on Wednesday gathered outside the Muslim family’s house and held a demonstration during which mob caught Ahmad and assaulted him while his daughter pleaded for mercy.
Attacks on Muslims
The incident comes on the back of growing instances of attacks on Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, ahead of the Assembly elections due early next year. The promulgation the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion, an ordinance, commonly known as “Love Jihad”, has further emboldened to Hindutva outfits to target Muslim youth and create a sense of fear among the community, point out critics.
Read Also: Muslims Fearful of Being Targeted After Fresh Spike in Attacks in UP
Commenting over Wednesday’s incident, Amit Sharma, a local activist associated with the Socialist Party, told NewsClick that Hindutva outfits “misusing slogans such as Jai Shri Ram, etc as a tool to harass minority community and will become more evident ahead of Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.”
Sharma said the key reason for the spread of “such hatred” is the fact that several accused are going scot free despite solid evidence. “In (police inspector) Subodh Kumar’s case, who was killed by mob in Bulandshahr, a Bajrang Dal activist was arrested but later freed and his supporters had welcomed him with garlands outside the jail. This pattern can be seen in every such incident. The heroic welcome to the accused basically gives encouragement, leading to more such crimes,” he said.
Recently, in another incident aimed at “terrorising” the Muslim community in Muzaffarnagar district of Western Uttar Pradesh, a group of men associated with Hindutva outfit — Kranti Sena -- conducted a drive in the main markets of the city, asking people to not allow Muslim youth to apply mehndi (henna) on the hands of Hindu women ahead of the Teej festival.
The outfit also warned shopkeepers against employing Muslim youth, especially as hairdressers, as they “exchange phone numbers and trap Hindu women in love jihad”.
Mohammad Shoaib, president of the Rihai Manch, an outfit that provides legal help to victims of hate crimes, said: “Assembly elections are just round the corner and this is being done to polarise the voters. In coming days, we will probably witness more such incidents,” adding that “there are also people, organisations such as farmers’ outfits where Hindus Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are giving a befitting reply to the ruling government. We should follow the same pattern to defeat this hatred.”