Members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) handed Muslim travellers to the police for offering prayers on the road. The police let them off after getting an apology.
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Hate crimes against Muslims do not seem to end in India. Each day one or the other hate crime against Muslims is reported from some or the other part of the country. This one is from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh on the Delhi-Lucknow National Highway. The incident took place on September 11 but came to light on September 13 after videos surfaced of a purported crime on social media.
A group of Muslim men from West Bengal were on a pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif travelling in a reserved bus. When they reached Shahjahanpur in UP, it was time for prayer. The Muslim men got out of the bus and offered namaz on the roadside on the Lucknow-Delhi national highway near a Dhaba. That’s when members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) allegedly harassed the Muslim men and handed them over to the police. Their grouse was that they were offering prayers in the open.
A video clip of the incident has gone viral on social media where the VHP members can be heard asking the bus passengers to hold their ears and apologise. They were heard saying in loud voice to the Muslim men, “What were you doing on the road?” A scared man replied, “we offered namaz on road.” After this, the first person said, “This is Uttar Pradesh, you cannot offer namaz anywhere except in a mosque. Those who offer namaz will have to go to jail,” he said.
In the video, a group of visibly scared Muslim men was seen holding their ears while being scolded by the intruders. In another video, some Muslim men were forced to do sit-ups, asked to kneel down and hold their ears in a gesture of apology. In yet another video, an elderly man can be seen apologising to the VHP leader. They were forced to accept their mistake and say ‘sorry’ in front of the camera.
Confirming the incident, Additional Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Vajpayee said, “Eighteen people from West Bengal were on their way to Ajmer in a bus and were brought to the Tilhar police station on the night of September 11. The complaint against them was that they were offering namaz on the roadside. They were released after getting an apology from them in writing and we issued a challan informing that prayers are not allowed on the road.”
When asked what action was taken against the VHP members for allegedly assaulting the Muslim men, the police officer said, “A fine was imposed on the bus driver as the vehicle was parked improperly on the highway.” It is learned no action was taken against those who harassed the Muslim men.
Meanwhile, a local VHP leader, Rajesh Awasthi, who reported the matter to the police, said, “I was on my way to some place when I saw some men offering namaz on the roadside. I told them that they were in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, where offering namaz in the open was prohibited.”
It’s a general knowledge that the UP government has ordered disallowing namaz on the road in 2019 only for the festival days to keep the roads free from traffic snarls as namaz on the road blocked the traffic.
The incident came days after the Moradabad Police registered an FIR against 26 people for offering namaz in a house on a complaint by a local Hindu man.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist. He can be contacted at email@example.com