The Muslim cleric who offered Narendra Modi a skullcap three years ago was on Tuesday arrested for allegedly describing garba as entertainment for the doers of “demonic deeds”.
The Kheda district police arrested Sufi Imam Mehdi Hasan from his village Rustampura in Thasra taluka on the charge of insulting religious sentiments.
Hasan had allegedly told a local journalist on Sunday that “Garba is a not a religious festival, but a place where those who do demonic deeds visit”. News of the alleged insult to the Navratri festival spread like wildfire, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a press conference the same day to demand his arrest.
The VHP and other Hindu extremist organisations have been carrying out a shrill campaign in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to keep Muslims out of Navratri festivities.
In Madhya Pradesh, two BJP MLAs have called for barring entry of Muslims to garbas, and authorities in Indore and Ujjain have made IDs mandatory at garba venues.
Complaints against the imam were made at police stations across Gujarat, including at Nadiad and Kheda. One Ritesh Suthar, a VHP member and resident of Shriramnagar society in Thasra, filed a complaint, saying the imam had “insulted religious sentiments”.
Suthar quoted from the imam’s alleged comment reported in a local edition of the daily Sandesh on Sunday, that “rakshasi krutya karne wale garba mein aate hain (those who carry out demonic deeds visit garbas)”.
Kheda Superintendent of Police Sachin Badshah said the cleric has been booked under IPC Section 295. He is likely to be produced in the district court on Wednesday.
In 2011, Hasan offered Modi a skullcap during the Sadbhavana fasts that the then chief minister had undertaken after being cleared by the SIT
of culpability in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi had refused to put on the cap, and taken a sash instead.