THREE DAYS after a mahapanchayat was held over a missing Hindu woman, the Shamli police on Monday arrested Acharya Jasveer Maharaj, a local sadhu who is alleged to have made an inflammatory speech that led to communal tension in the area.
The mahapanchayat was attended by BJP MP Hukum Singh and MLA Suresh Rana.
“We received information about Jasveer Maharaj planning to carry out a march in connection with the incident. Based on the information, the team arrested him from Muzaffarnagar district,” said Vijay Bhushan, SP, Shamli district. Jasveer, who runs a local ashram, has been sent to police custody.
The mahapanchayat was called on Friday over the Shamli police’s “failure” to trace the 23-year-old Hindu woman, who went missing with a tenant of her family on November 28. The woman has since been traced.
According to police sources, the woman has alleged that the accused, Mohammad Asif, took her to Delhi on the pretext of finding her a job. Asif allegedly told her that he was a chartered accountant and had contacts in Delhi.
The woman, in her statement to the police, has alleged that she was locked in a room in South Delhi. The police have registered a case against Asif and his family members, including his wife, brother and mother. While Asif and his brother Arshad have been arrested, his wife and mother have fled the village.
On Saturday, the police registered a case against Jasveer and others, based on a complaint filed by the local cleric, Maulana Ehtaramul Hasan. The police registered an FIR against Jasveer under IPC Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause a riot), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
Naresh Saini, a social worker from Kandhla who organised the mahapanchayat, claimed Jasveer “had just begun speaking about Prophet Muhammad” when he was stopped by the others. “He had just begun his speech and referred to the Prophet. However, he was stopped by the members on the stage,” said Saini.
Asked if Jasveer was invited to the mahapanchayat, Saini said, “No. In fact, most of us don’t even know who he is. He came here after the news of a mahapanchayat spread to the bordering districts of Shamli. He was not asked to speak at the gathering. We also did not know what he was going to speak about.”
However, Hasan, the complainant in the case, said: “Why was Jasveer allowed to speak at the event? On whose behalf was he invited to the event? The BJP, Bajrang Dal leaders shared the dais and watched him deliver an inflammatory speech. The Muslim community does not have a problem about a mahapanchayat being organised. But if this is done only to hurt the sentiments of Muslims, police have to take action. His speech was not just inflammatory but also derogatory. We demand that the National Security Act be slapped against him for referring to the Prophet.”