An Uttarakhand policeman has been commended by his seniors for intervening and rescuing a youth from the Muslim community from being assaulted by a group of people from radical Hindu outfits, including the VHP, after he was found in an allegedly “compromising position” with a young woman near a temple in Uttarakhand’s Ramnagar town.
The youth was identified as Irfan, 23, and his companion was a 19-year-old woman from the Hindu community.
Sub Inspector Gagandeep Singh of Ramnagar police station, in Nainital district, came to Irfan’s rescue when he was being heckled and assaulted by the mob at Garjiya temple in Ramnagar.
The incident took place on Tuesday, and several videos showing Singh shielding Irfan, and taking a few stray blows from the angry mob, went viral on social media over Thursday and Friday.
On Friday, after the videos were shared numerous times on social media, Nainital Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Janmejay Khanduri ordered a preliminary inquiry. Khanduri said that in appreciation of Singh’s work, Nainital police will award him with Rs 2,500.
Following the SSP’s orders, Ramnagar police registered an FIR.
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Besides devotees, the temple, which sits by Kosi river, is also a favoured destination for many tourists and local residents for recreational purpose. VHP leaders in Ramnagar have been protesting against this for the last two years.
“People treat the temple premises as a picnic spot. Couples are seen by the river in compromising positions,” VHP’s Ramnagar unit president Himanshu Agarwal told The Indian Express. “Our demand has been that recreational activities near the temple be banned. For that, we had called a meeting of the local administration on Monday.”
But with administration officers failing to show up for the meeting, angry VHP workers on Tuesday closed the temple’s main gate in protest.
As Sub Inspector Singh reached there to have the gate reopened, VHP’s Agarwal told him that “unethical behaviour of couples on temple premises hurts our religious sentiments”, and that the gate would remain shut “until the administration agrees to our demands of maintaining the temple’s sanctity”.
As Singh was initiating talks between VHP members and the local administration, a mob began hurling abuses at a youth, and soon began physically assaulting him. Agarwal said they had spotted a “Hindu girl in a compromising position with a Muslim youth” near the temple.
Singh told The Indian Express, “As I saw a mob beating up a youth, I rushed to rescue him.”
Videos on social media show the mob, few saffron-clad men among them, hurling abuses at Irfan and the girl, who are both from Kashipur, 40 km from Garjiya temple.
Ramnagar police station’s SHO Inspector Vikram Rathod said, “The mob was already an angry one. While S-I Singh was trying to get them to open the temple gate, some people spotted the couple by the river and started beating up the youth (Irfan).”
The videos show several saffron-clad men demanding Irfan’s “ID” proof even as a few people assaulted him. Singh can be seen intervening and putting his arms around Irfan to shield him from the mob. “They (mob) didn’t let me take him (Irfan) outside the temple area. Several people blocked the gates. I had to argue with them before I could leave the premises,” Singh said.
The videos show the mob shouting “police prashasan murdabad” (down with police department) while Singh was shielding Irfan.
SHO Rathod said, “We have filed an FIR against unknown persons under IPC Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), and 504 (intentionally insulting a person to provoke). We have a few video footage and will use them to identify people who were hurling insults at and beating up the Muslim youth.”
Irfan and the girl could not be contacted for comments.