October 4, 2021 3:12:03 am
A shrine in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district was vandalised and three people, including the caretaker, were beaten, tied up and looted, by 20 unidentified men in the wee hours of Saturday, reportedly alleging illegal conversions. The attack went on for four hours, from 11 pm till 3 am.
The caretaker of the Bhedabhan shrine, Noor Shah, 70, said the attackers had used explosives to damage it, though police were yet to confirm this. The shrine is located in a secluded area on the MP-Rajasthan border, about 70 km from the district headquarters. A visitor to the shrine, Abdul Rajak, who was injured in the attack, is hospitalised.
Police have registered a complaint against unidentified people under IPC Sections 295 (injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult religion), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 147 (rioting),148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons) and 149 (unlawful assembly with criminal intent).
Neemuch SP Suraj Kumar Verma said: “We called in a Bomb Disposal Squad, but so far it has not been ascertained if explosives were used. We have also sent a sample for forensics.”
Shah said 20-25 men had attacked in the middle of the night, and tied his hands and legs up, along with those of a couple from Udaipur in Rajasthan who were visiting the shrine. All three were then thrashed, he said.
Shah shared a note that he says was handed to him by the attackers. In the note, the attackers identify themselves as belonging to a ‘PFI’ of Malwa region, adding: “In the past couple of years, it has come to light that Muslim activities in Bhedabhan area have increased, although the majority population is Hindu. It has been observed that simple-minded Hindus visit the shrine, who are then made to convert their religion….”
The note warns, “If this shrine is restored, all the Muslims in the locality will be wiped out and the administration will not be able to come to their aid.” It further says that while their organisation has no name or face, it is keeping a close watch on every shrine visited by Hindus, and that if a Hindu visits a Muslim shrine, Muslims will face consequences.
The Popular Front of India (PFI), which has been under the scanner of several government organisations, said there seemed to be a “well-thought-out plan” to drag it into the row. District in-charge Imran Tawar said, “The PFI is a public organisation and it has nothing to do with the incident. The note is misleading and the language used in the note can never be put forth by the PFI. I urge all to maintain peace… police should take action and punish those responsible.”
The SP said the area is Hindu-dominated, and that people from both communities visit the shrine. “Unlike the claims made in the note, we have received no complaints of religious conversion in the district in the past one year. We will also enquire with the bordering police stations of Rajasthan to ascertain if any disgruntled elements from there were involved in the act,” said Verma.
A rally was held in Neemuch by the Sarva Muslim Samajh Committee, which gave a memorandum to police demanding an “impartial” probe. Wahim Khan, president of the committee, said, “This is a deliberate attempt to destroy communal harmony of the area as an attack on a religious place, irrespective of the religion, hurts the community. We want police to take appropriate action against those responsible.”
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