Shamli: The killing of a monkey, allegedly by a Muslim man, Saturday has once again widened religious fault-lines in the communally-sensitive Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh, with no consensus on what really happened.
While the family of the accused, Hafeez, 34, said he shot the monkey in self defence, tensions flared after the village’s Hindu residents, backed by local Bajrang Dal unit, insisted that he had hurt their sentiments as the monkey is “an avatar of Lord Hanuman”.
On Monday, three days since the incident, which occurred at Beena Majra village in the district, the tension has eased but police are taking no chances and keeping a strict vigil in the village. Beena Majra falls under the Jhinjhana Police station.
Police have so far arrested Hafeez, 34, and booked his two brothers Abdul Ashiq, 33, and Anees, 23.
“An FIR has been registered against Hafeez and his two brothers. They are booked under sections 295 (defiling place of worship), 9/51 (Wildlife protection act), 504 (breaching public peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and the Arms Act,” Jhinjhana SHO Sushil Kumar Dubey told ThePrint.
“We have seized four licensed weapons and a box of 533 cartridges from Hafeez’s house.”
Police, however, said Hafeez had no criminal record. “Hafeez has no criminal record in our police thana. Neither does his family have any case registered against them in the past,” SHO Dubey said.
According to police, Hafeez shot the monkey at 6.30 am Saturday.
Circle Officer Pradeep Kumar said police received a call from Beena Majra village at 7 in the morning that day. “A boy on the phone sounded worried and he was talking about a monkey being killed and a mob having gathered,” Kumar said. “Within a few minutes, I understood what it was. The police and a forest team reached the spot at 7.30 am and rescued the accused from the mob and the monkey.”
The monkey was then taken to the animal hospital at Jhinjhana where it died after an hour. SHO Dubey said the police team managed to prevent the situation from spiralling.
“We worked fast, otherwise the situation would have been worse,” he said. “When the team reached there was a mob of 70 people were ready to kill the accused and he had gun.”
A senior police official, who did not want to be named, said: “Saturday was Navratri and the Bajrang Dal added fuel to the clash. After the Muzaffarnagar riots, some communities have become insecure. Many people have started applying for arms licenses citing self-defence.”
Shot in self-defence: Family
Hafeez’s family in the village told ThePrint that they had had trouble dealing with the monkeys that they say number in the hundreds.
“We couldn’t sleep the whole night. The monkey was creating a racket on the rooftop and throwing things away. It was around 6:30 in the morning when he attacked our three-year-old girl who was lying on the cot,” said a woman relative of Hafeez.
“Her mother rushed to save her. He attacked her also. She was badly injured. That’s when Hafeez lost his control and fired at the monkey. It was not intentional. Everyone in the village is tired of this monkey tandav (destruction).”
The Hindu families, however, claimed that the monkey was killed intentionally to hurt their sentiments.
Ravinder Tanwar, 40, who called the local Bajrang Dal unit to the village after the monkey was killed, told ThePrint, “The monkey was the head of the group. There are only 5-7 monkeys in the village. How come only Muslims are being attacked by monkeys?”
‘Hafeez also threatened to kill us at that time. He flaunted his licensed gun and said, ‘Inke liye to main akele hi kaafi hun (I alone am enough to take on all of you)’,” he added.
A village resident, Gopal Panwar, 20, who lives in front of Hafeez’s house, said, “He deliberately shot him. I was standing at my rooftop. The monkey didn’t attack the family.”
Shakti Singh, the Bajrang Dal’s Shamli district president told ThePrint that Hafeez had hurt Hindu sentiments. “We were called by Ravinder. My team reached there. People were already angry about the incident. We staged a protest demanding immediate arrest of the accused,” he said.
“The monkey is representative of Lord Hanuman. They killed him Saturday, which is Lord Hanuman’s day. We are glad that police arrested the accused and seized his weapons. You can not hurt our sentiments.”
Beena Majra, which has just 1,000 voters, is not new to communal disharmony.
There had been some spillover of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots here. According to Manoj, 35, a Hindu-Muslim clash happened in the village four years ago.
Mohammad Isam, the husband of the woman pradhan Kayyom, told ThePrint that the clashes were over music being played during azaan. “The pujari of the mandir used to play the radio at the time of azaan. Muslims objected and there was a clash,” Isam said. “The Akhilesh Yadav government was in power and the matter was resolved but police force was deployed in the village for many months.”
He further added, “There are 450 Hindus voters and 550 Muslims, Sikhs and other community voters. At least five-six families keep licensed weapons for self-defence but there has been no such case. Hafeez must have lost his senses.”
- The copy has been updated to correct the fact that the Muzaffarnagar riots occurred in 2013.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.