Just out of hospital, he is nursing his wounds following an attack. He is also trying to convince people he was not responsible for posting derogatory pictures on social networking sites and phone messengers that triggered communal clashes in Pune. Both sides targeted 20-year-old Nikhil Tikone of Kasba Peth, who was among the first victims of the recent clashes.
Tikone was attacked on May 31 and his photograph had become talk of the town with messages spreading through WhatsApp and internet saying he is “Nihal Khan” who posted derogatory pictures of Maratha king Shivaji and the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray on Facebook (FB) and that he had been arrested by the police.
Even as these messages were being circulated, Tikone was undergoing treatment for injuries.
After some Hindu groups agitated in Kagdipura (a small Muslim locality) in Kasba Peth protesting against derogatory FB posts, a group of Muslims of the area allegedly intercepted Tikone and his friend Rohit around 10 pm, when they were returning home after attending a wedding ritual.
“There were about 50 Muslims, some armed with swords and iron rods. We had attended a marriage ritual, so there was a tilak on my forehead. The mob saw our tilak and asked us ‘Tumhi RSS che ahat ka? (Are you from RSS?)’ and launched an attack. They broke our two-wheeler. We managed to escape…,” said Tikone.
“I got injuries on my head and back. I was rushed to hospital and a police complaint was lodged. After some time, I came to know someone had spread my photograph on WhatsApp saying I am Nihal Khan and have been arrested for uploading derogatory images,” he said.
“I was shocked. Citizens who saw these messages gave severe reactions like this boy (me) should be hanged. To counter the situation, I uploaded my video with help from friends, saying I am a Hindu…I have not created the controversial FB posts,” he added.
Tikone said he was discharged from hospital three days ago, but was taking rest as wounds had not fully healed. He said he had not named any of his Muslim attackers in his complaint. “There was a local NCP leader… I’ve not named anyone in my statement. I stated I can identify the person if brought before me.”
Police inspector Dnyaneshwar Bhosale said, “We have arrested four persons for the attack on Tikone. They have now been released on bail.”
Police said Tikone filed a complaint against “unidentified persons”. When asked about details of the person who spread the message, police said they had no clues. A senior police officer said they were “helpless” in controlling the massive spread of distorted messages. “There needs a mechanism wherein government agencies can control or close down social networking websites and phone messengers for a particular area,” he said.
“I wish cops find a solution to the misuse of FB and WhatsApp. I hope the person who circulated my photograph as Nihal Khan is identified,” said Tikone, who plans to enroll for graduation at a local college. Tikone is son of an auto-rickshaw driver and lives in Bhoi Ali area of Kasba Peth.