Hours after tension gripped Ghatkopar following desecration of a Shivaji statue, the police on Monday arrested a history-sheeter for hurting religious sentiments.
The man, identified as Jafar Sheikh (30), was allegedly seen Sunday night spitting in front of a bust of Chhatapati Shivaji installed for the Shiv Jayanti celebrations over the weekend.
The incident led to led to a small clash between two communities in the area, after which police were deployed and a meeting held between the leaders of the two communities in the locality.
The police said that on Sunday night, Jafar was passing by a temporary bust of Shivaji erected in a residential locality in Ghatkopar when he spat in front of it and moved on.
“The complainant in the case, a girl, also saw Jafar spitting near a rangoli drawn on the road a short distance ahead. Within an hour, news spread across the locality and around 500 to 600 people gathered at the spot. Jafar has some past cases registered against him and there is already some negative sentiment regarding him in the area, which further stoked the public’s ire,” a senior police officer said.
Several teams of the Ghatkopar police, followed by reinforcements, rushed to the spot and a tight bandobast was imposed to contain the situation.
“By the time we reached the spot, a marble plaque bearing a name of a religious leader of the minority community had also been vandalised. We immediately contacted several representatives of both communities and held a meeting with them, appealing for restraint,” another officer said.
By Monday morning, tempers had cooled and Jafar, who had gone into hiding following the incident, was traced and taken into custody. The police then recorded statements of several eye-witnesses and placed Jafar under arrest.
“We have arrested Jafar and charged him with hurting religious sentiments, under Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code. He has some offences registered against him in 2011 and 2012. A separate case has also been registered in connection with the subsequent vandalism and inquiries are underway in that regard as well,” said Vinay Rathod, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone VII.
Sources said that following the incident, police also began monitoring the social media to look out for any rumour-mongering. Informants were also instructed to alert the police if they got any forwarded messages about the incident on WhatsApp.
Residents of the Ghatkopar area were warned against indulging in rumour-mongering, said officers.