In a matter of five days, two cases of moral policing have been reported and a communal row has erupted in Belagavi. The district has been on the edge since the decapitation of a Muslim man over a love affair with a Hindu girl on September 26. The police arrested ten people including the girl’s parents and members of Sri Ram Sene Hindustan, an offshoot of Pramod Muthalik’s Hindutva group. The tension in the air now is palpable as vigilante groups are increasingly becoming a threat to communal harmony in the district.
Here’s everything you need to know about the three incidents.
October 18: Interfaith college friends thrashed and verbally abused at bus stand
A Hindu boy who was seen talking to a couple of Muslim girls was thrashed by locals at Belagavi central bus stand. The boy and the girls study in the same college and were chatting with each other while waiting for the bus when the incident took place. The footage of the moral policing incident has gone viral on social media.
The boy was verbally abused by a man who also beat him up for ‘talking to girls of different faith’. On the other side, a few men cornered the girls and forced them remove the burqas. The men and women were seen abusing them for ‘not respecting morals’ and asked them to reveal their names and addresses. In the footage, the girls were seen saying repeatedly that they are friends and study in the same college, but the locals refused to let them go.
Soon, police arrived at the spot and asked them to resolve the matter and let them go without registering a case.
October 14: Assault on interfaith friends
The Belagavi police on Tuesday arrested three men in connection with a moral policing incident at Aman Nagar. The accused identified as Dawat Katheeb, an auto driver, Ayub and Yusuf Pathan have been taken into custody by the Malmaruti police for thrashing a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl.
According to the police, the boy identified as Rahul Gurav hailing from Raibag and his friend Shakeera Banu of Sankeshwar town were beaten up by a group of over twenty men.
On October 14, the duo decided to go on a walk at a park in the city. They got into an auto rickshaw at the Central bus stand and asked the driver to take them to a park nearby. Dawat Katheeb, the auto driver noticed that the girl was wearing a burqa and the boy had vermilion on his forehead. He took them to a vacant area in Aman nagar instead of the park.
En route to the park he had already called some of his friends and asked them to reach the spot. A group of 20 men assaulted the boy with rods and bricks for ‘roaming around with a Muslim girl’. They also roughed up the girl and asked her to ‘find someone from her own faith’.
The gang also snatched their mobile phones, Rs 50,000 cash, Aadhaar and ATM cards before escaping.
Following a police complaint by the boy and girl, the cops have managed to arrest three accused in the case and the hunt is on for others.
Following the two moral policing incidents, the Belagavi DCP Vikram Amte said that if the police refuse to register a case, the complainants should alert higher officials.
“We can’t register a case based on videos circulating on social media. But we will not spare anyone indulging in moral policing and book them under the Goonda Act,” he said.
October 8: Hindutva group vandalises Muslim man’s chicken shop
Members of a fringe right wing group vandalised a chicken shop owned by a Muslim man and set fire to the shop’s banner in Belagavi’s Yamanapura village on October 8. The incident came to light after footage of the incident went viral on social media.
The group of men had imposed a ban on selling meat in the area as part of celebrations of the opening of a temple. They did so without the consent of any district or government authority and also organised a religious yatra passing through the route. They demanded the owner of the shop, Hasan Saab and his wife Afsana Saab to close shop and leave.
Speaking to News9, Hasan said that he had shut the shop bowing to their demand and had only opened it to clean the shop when the workers were beaten up.
“”We were allowed to open till 11 am and we closed the shop by then. By afternoon, we sent two of our workers to clean the shop and that is when some of them attacked the workers,” Hasan said.
“They harassed and abused us in foul language and also threatened to kill us. They also spoke to the building owner and asked him to kick us out,” Afsana Saab told News9.
The couple also alleged that the police did not register an FIR and instead urged them to seek a mutual resolution, but the police clarified that the Muslim couple did not approach them to file a case.