A Dalit man, who was allegedly slapped by Bajrang Dal activists for converting to Islam on Monday, underwent a ‘ghar wapsi’ as per Hindu rituals the next day in Shamli district. A Bajrang Dal office-bearer said he reconverted after they “convinced” him, and that he also took a pledge to “remain a Hindu throughout his life”.
A video of Pawan Kumar, a welder, being slapped by a group of people at his house, went viral on social media on Tuesday. It also shows him facing the crowd as someone flicks a skullcap off his head. Police said Pawan refused to file a complaint regarding the assault despite being contacted by a team.
Sources said Pawan had converted to Islam around three weeks ago, after which he started wearing a skullcap and growing a beard. Additional SP (Shamli) Shlok Kumar said, “We got information through media that Pawan Kumar was thrashed by some right wing activists… These people went to him on Monday night and counselled him. On Tuesday, we contacted Pawan to come to us, but he did not. He said he would not take any legal action … Today, we again tried to talk to him, but he was not in his house.”
The ASP said, “We have been told that he converted because he is 34 years of age and unmarried. He was lured by some people to convert to Islam so he could get married to a Muslim girl.”
However, Shamli SP Dev Ranjan Verma said that Pawan denied having converting to Islam. “We had sent a police team but he was not ready to share details of the cleric who helped him convert. He claimed that he never converted to Islam and had started wearing a skullcap and beard just because he liked it. On Tuesday, some Bajrang Dal men conducted his shuddhikaran (purification). We are keeping a watch on the situation,” Verma said. “A police team will go speak to him again in case he is afraid of filing a complaint,” he added.
Pawan could not be contacted despite several attempts. Local Bajrang Dal leaders denied having assaulted Pawan and claimed that some local residents had beaten him up. Vivek Premi, an office bearer of the Bajrang Dal who had allegedly led the group to Pawan’s house, said they went to talk to him on Monday. “Some people got him converted to Islam, luring him with a job and marriage… But after we convinced him, he underwent ghar wapsi on Tuesday as per Hindu rituals and also took a pledge that he will remain a Hindu throughout his life,” Premi claimed.
Asked whether Bajrang Dal activists assaulted Pawan, Premi denied the same, adding that some elderly local residents had slapped him. “He decided to get his beard shaved and we got it done by calling a barber,” he added.
In June 2015, Shamli police had arrested Vivek Premi and one other person for allegedly parading a Muslim man through a market after blackening his face and beating him up.
Premi and his associates had claimed they had caught Mohammad Riyaz, 42, carrying a calf that was allegedly stolen from a cow shed in Adarsh Mandi area on June 25, 2015. They had accused Riyaz of taking the calf for slaughter. Riyaz was later handed over to police and sent to jail by the court on charges of theft and under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
A video and photographs purportedly showing Premi beating up the man had gone viral on social media. Four days after Riyaz was sent to jail, an FIR was lodged against Premi and five other Bajrang Dal activists. They were arrested on charges of rioting, voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.
The district had invoked the National Security Act against Premi, alleging that his actions led to communal tension in the city. In January 2016, the central government had revoked the order.