Mathura: On Saturday, BJP worker Keshav Mukhia was scrolling through Facebook when he noticed an advertisement of IndiaMART about a sale of rocks taken from the Hindu pilgrimage site Govardhan hill, also known as the Mount Govardhana and Giriraj.
Mukhia, who holds the position of a ‘Mahamantri’ for the BJP’s block unit in Govardhan municipal town, filed a complaint Sunday against three persons.
Subsequently, an FIR was lodged under Section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class of persons) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66D of the Information Technology Act against IndiaMART founder-CEO Dinesh Agarwal, co-founder Brijesh Agrawal and Mathura-based supplier of the rocks Ankur Agrawal.
SP (rural), Mathura, Shirish Chandra told ThePrint, “We have taken into account all evidence submitted by the complainant and strict action will be taken for hurting religious sentiments.”
“A team of UP Police officers have also visited the IndiaMART office in Noida for investigation,” he said.
A senior police officer investigating the case, on condition of anonymity, said that the Mathura-based supplier, Ankur Agarwal, had told investigators that he has “no idea” how his details came up as the supplier of the Govardhan hill rocks.
“We need to collect more evidence before taking further action,” the officer said.
IndiaMART has, however, denied putting up the rocks for sale, saying they have nothing to do with what sellers display on the website.
“We don’t sell things. We are an online marketplace and by law we are allowed to show advertisements by third-party sellers. IndiaMART has nothing to do with what the sellers have displayed. We have not put up the rocks for sale,” CEO Dinesh Agarwal told ThePrint.
‘Caught them red-handed’
Mukhia, who runs a cable network business in Mathura, has shared with ThePrint screenshots of the rock being sold on the e-commerce site. The advertisement has now been removed.
The website, according to the police and the screenshot, claimed that the rocks are “natural” and quoted its price as Rs 5,175 per piece.
“Natural Giri Govardhan Shila Govardhan Stone Giriraj Krishna Shilas” — the ad stated.
Mukhia, who has been with the BJP since 2011, said he alerted other party workers and also those of the Brahmin Mahasabha after he saw the advertisement.
He was accompanied to the police station by a large number of agitated residents and members of the Brahmin Mahasabha, who said they were outraged as the company tried to trade the “deity”.
“I immediately contacted the e-commerce site on their customer service number and told them that I want to buy rocks worth Rs 2 lakh. I asked him how much they can sell,” said Mukhia, a Brahmin.
“They sent the contact numbers of three sellers, two in Dausa and one from Chennai, but none of them took my order. I think they guessed something and after a while, even the e-commerce site didn’t attend my calls anymore,” he added.
Mukhia said he then asked other BJP members to call up the e-commerce site to place orders for the same amount.
“It is after almost 30-40 of us made calls from different phone numbers that IndiaMART sent details of one Mathura-based seller, Ankur Impex, and we finally caught them red-handed. We directly went to the police station and lodged a complaint against the proprietor and the owners. We knew it was someone local, an insider who is involved,” he said.
“The company has hurt our religious sentiments. We are worried now that we might have to face the wrath of the deity. They cannot sell the Shila (rock) like a product,” Mukhia said.
Meanwhile, Mathura District Magistrate Navneet Chahal said, “On Monday, the Shrimad Bhagwat Katha Aayojan Samiti of Govardhan handed over a memorandum to Deputy Collector Sandeep Verma demanding strict action against those who have hurt religious sentiments. We have forwarded it to the CM’s office like they asked.”
The ‘sacred’ hill
Govardhan Hill in Mathura is considered a sacred site for Hindus. It is believed that Lord Krishna was embodied in the earth of the hill.
Residents here call themselves ‘Brijwasi’ as the region is known as Brijbhoomi or Braj. It is believed that Lord Krishna lifted the hill to protect the people and animals of the region from relentless rains, invoked by Lord Indra.
The Govardhan hill spans across 21 km, of which 8 km is located in the Govardhan area and Radha Kund, which is located around 21 km from Vrindavan.
Devotees come to perform ‘parikrama’ (circumambulation) around the sacred hill. Nobody is allowed to climb the hill with shoes or spit near the hills. The rocks of the mountain are only used while performing the ‘parikrama’ and then returned to the priests.
Parikramas are done in several ways — Walking Parikrama (barefoot walking), Doodh Parikrama (holding milk in a pot while walking or driving), Sohni Seva Parikrama (done with a broom) and Dandavat Parikrama (using the whole body) among others.
Mukesh Totla from Rajasthan was among the many devotees who had come to the holy site to perform parikrama Tuesday.
His mother, 70-year-old Uma Totla has done the Dandavat Parikrama, covering 15 km in a fortnight, after which her son, Mukesh, completed the rest of the distance.
“We will do the walking Parikrama now (which is) another 21 km,” he said.