Booked for selling shoes that had ‘Thakur’ written on them, Nasir, a roadside vendor in Gulaothi, Bulandshahr, said he had never checked what was embossed on the soles, and that he got these and other shoes in bulk from Delhi.
“I worked at a shop in the city, but lost my job in the lockdown. It’s been a month since I started selling shoes. There were only three-four pairs with ‘Thakur’ on them,” he told The Indian Express, adding that men had come to his shop and roughed him up. “I tried to explain that I didn’t check the soles, but they didn’t listen… I buy shoes from Delhi, what wrong have I done?”
Having registered a case against Nasir under IPC Section 153A, dealing with promoting enmity between groups, the police Wednesday said they were dropping this charge. The investigation against him over Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) will continue.
While Nasir was picked up on Monday morning following a complaint by local Bajrang Dal leader Vishal Chauhan, who claimed the shoes were an attempt to defame a caste, the police said they had not detained or arrested the 31-year-old but let him go after questioning at the police station. On Monday evening, the police took Nasir to Ghaziabad in search of the wholesale manufacturer of the shoes — in vain.
थाना गुलावठी क्षेत्र से संबंधित प्रकरण के संबंध में रिपोर्ट- pic.twitter.com/yGdroUHsUJ
— Bulandshahr Police (@bulandshahrpol) January 6, 2021
CCTV footage of the incident shared on social media shows a group of men standing near Nasir’s stall and checking out the shoes on display. In the 57-second video, Nasir can be heard saying, “I didn’t make the shoes.” To this, a man in the crowd responds: “Then why have you got them here?”
Chauhan told The Indian Express he had gone to Nasir’s shop on hearing that he kept shoes with ‘Thakur’ written on them. “This is casteism… it’s very insulting to Hindus. When I went there to check, I found a few such pairs. I asked Nasir not to sell such shoes but he abused and assaulted me. I went to the police station and lodged a complaint.”
Asked about Nasir’s defence that he didn’t make the shoes, Chauhan said, “I don’t know who made the shoes… The police should investigate that.”
Senior Superintendent of Police (Bulandshahr) Santosh Kumar Singh said they had taken Nasir to Ghaziabad to try and find the wholesaler.
“We only wanted to know where the shoes were manufactured because it hurt someone’s religious sentiments,” he said.
Atul Kumar Srivastava, Addl SP (City), said, “We received a complaint from Chauhan against Nasir selling shoes with ‘Thakur’ on the sole. He said this hurt his religious feelings, and that he was beaten up when he objected to it. We registered an FIR and conducted an inquiry. Later, Section 153A was removed; we are further investigating the matter.”
Earlier, the Bulandshahr police tweeted that their action was justified. “Had the police not taken legal action, many people would have reacted differently or in the wrong way.”