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Before attack on bangle-seller, how fault lines hardened in Indore

That was a reference to an incident in Bombay Bazaar, about 4 km away, in which two Dalit girls were beaten up by a group of young men who alleged they were friends with a "Hindu man."

New Govind Nagar in Indore where Tasleem Ali was beaten up on August 22. (Express Photo: Iram Siddique)

When Tasleem Ali, a bangle-seller from Uttar Pradesh, was beaten up and abused by some men in Indore’s New Govind Nagar area on August 22, one of the attackers invoked his religion and shouted “Bombay Bazaar ka badla lo.”

That was a reference to an incident in Bombay Bazaar, about 4 km away, in which two Dalit girls were beaten up by a group of young men who alleged they were friends with a “Hindu man.” That incident on August 13, and at least two other events, police and leaders from both communities told The Indian Express, hardened fault lines.

In the Bombay Bazaar incident, two Dalit girls with their uncle Rohit Salvi were surrounded by a mob that swelled in size and mistook them as “Muslim women standing with a Hindu man.” The girls, eyewitnesses said, were forced to show their Aadhaar cards and establish their identity. A heated argument led to a clash, with the police intervening to rescue the two women after they were attacked by a group of people. The police registered a case under 10 different IPC sections including attempt to murder.

“People call the attack on Tasleem a mob attack but actually what happened in Bombay Bazar was a mob attack. The incident created outrage among the majority community,” said Rajpal Joshi, Prant Prachar Pramukh of Malwa Prant, Hindu Jagran Manch.

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Indeed, Indore’s chief Qazi, Ishrat Ali, drew a link. “What started with the incident at Bombay Bazaar,” he told The Indian Express Friday, “concluded with what happened with Tasleem.”

When contacted, Mahesh Chandra Jain, Superintendent of Police (West), Indore, said, ”The incident was handled then and is done and dusted now. I would not like to comment on it.”

There’s a reason why officials are dialing it down.

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For, the Bombay Bazaar incident itself occurred in the backdrop of an 18-year-old Muslim woman choosing to marry a man of the majority community on August 4. Four days after that marriage, she presented herself at the Bhawar Kuan police station on August 8 dressed as a Hindu bride, and refused to return to her parents.

When contacted, her father, who did not want to be identified, said, “My daughter who was just 18 years was brainwashed like many other girls in the community are. I was hardly given two minutes to convince her to return home at the police station in the presence of at least 10-12 policemen.” Such instances — described as ‘reverse love jihad’ — have led to increased vigilance by members of the community in areas dominated by minorities, said a community leader.

Two days after the Bombay Bazaar episode, a couple of incidents in the city on the Independence Day, also raised the communal temperature. In the first, the two communities confronted each other in Nayta

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Mulla colony which falls under the Tejaji Nagar police station following provocative slogans after flag-hosting which led to stone pelting. FIRs were registered following complaints from both the communities at Tejaji Nagar police station.

In another incident at Rajwada, a sitting BJP MLA referred to another Independence Day event 10 km away from Nayta Mulla colony in which a woman asked the audience to repeat “Hindu Rashtra ki Jai” and “Hindu Dharm Ki Jai” with her after raising slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jai.” A video shows that among those assembled in the event, organised by BJP’s Alpasankhya morcha, some shouted back “Yaa Hussain”.

“This Talibani culture will not work here. Whoever wants to stay here will have to say slogans like Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram,” the MLA, Malini Singh Gaur, told The Indian Express.

Tasleem, who was beaten up by the men after these incidents, was arrested by the police on charges of forgery along with relevant sections of sexual harassment and POCSO. The police also arrested four people — Rakesh Pawar, Vikas Malviya, Rajkumar Bhatnagar, Vivek Vyas — for beating and looting Tasleem.

When contacted, Superintendent of Police Indore (East) Ashutosh Bagri who has sent a team to Tasleem’s native district Hardoi to ascertain his credentials said, “As per preliminary information, he has no criminal records. But it is confirmed he had two Aadhaar cards.”

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For community leaders trying to defuse the tension, the task is cut out. Said Qazi Ishrat Ali:

“Indore is a city where people give food to the hungry and help to the needy without getting into their religion…It is our responsibility to maintain peace.”

First published on: 28-08-2021 at 04:22 IST
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