Two labourers from Jammu and Kashmir were assaulted by a group of local residents in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday. Police officers have said the incident appears to be a result of religious intolerance.
In a separate incident, a Christian couple was intercepted by a group of people near Dharamshala and asked to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on Sunday. A video of the incident was widely circulated on social media on Thursday.
The attack on the labourers from J&K took place in Harnora village of Bilaspur district. According to the police, 18 workers from J&K were staying on the campus of National Thermal Power Corporation Limited and were employed by a local contractor for road construction and other projects. They had not been working since the lockdown came into force.
On Wednesday, a group of 5-6 local residents entered the campus and assaulted the labourers, an investigating officer said. “It appears to be a case of religious intolerance. The attackers confronted the victims over offering namaz and then manhandled two of them, slapping and kicking them,” said a senior police officer.
The police have arrested two accused who allegedly led the assault. “We have registered a case of house trespass, criminal intimidation, causing hurt and rioting under sections 323, 451, 506, 147 and 149 of the IPC at Barmana police station,” an officer said.
District SP Devakar Sharma said the victims have been shifted to a safer place near a CISF campus and a police team deployed for security. He added that none of the victims has received a serious injury.
Meanwhile, a widely-shared video on social media showed a group of people purportedly accusing a Christian couple of carrying out religious conversions and asking them to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at Slate Godam village near Dharamsala.
The incident, it is learnt, took place on Sunday when Hari Bahadur, 31, a tour and travel guide from Rakkar village near Dharamshala, and his wife Nisha Ghale visited another Christian couple in Slate Godam.
“We visited our friends following the birth of their child. But some residents gathered there and started misbehaving with us. They said they had received some complaints about us carrying out religious conversion and even misbehaved with my pregnant wife,” Bahadur told The Indian Express.
Soon, a police team arrived and brought things under control, Bahadur said, adding that he has not lodged any complaint with the police. The police have booked the couple for curfew violation since they travelled without a permit, an officer said.
Bahadur said he had learnt that the people who confronted him were local residents and members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Ashutosh Aggarwal, a VHP leader from Shimla, said that he was unaware of the incident but added, “If it happened, it was probably because the Christians were missionaries involved in religious conversion.”
In a video address to the public on Thursday, DGP S R Mardi condemned the Bilaspur incident and other forms of discrimination in the state. “We have learnt that people of a particular community are being discriminated against in hospitals, ration shops and utility services. This is very wrong in a nation known for Unity in Diversity. Rising above our differences and putting up a united front is the need of the hour” he said.
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