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How neighbourhood row ‘triggered’ attack on Kanpur Muslim man forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’

Afsar Ahmad, 45, a Kanpur-based e-rickshaw driver, was allegedly paraded through the streets and assaulted by a mob on 10 August as his daughter clung onto him and wept.

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Kanpur: Afsar Ahmad, a 45-year-old Kanpur-based e-rickshaw driver, says his daughter, 7, has not smiled since Wednesday. That was the day Ahmad was allegedly paraded through the streets and assaulted by a mob in the city’s Barra area. 

In a video of the incident, that has since gone viral, Afsar’s daughter is seen clinging to her father — wailing, distraught — as a group of men assaults him. 

In the latter part of the video, police appear to be escorting Afsar and his daughter away from the mob. Police, Afsar told ThePrint, saved him from the assaulters.

Three people have been arrested in the matter by Kanpur Police — identified as Ajay, Rahul Kumar and Aman Gupta (they were released on bail Friday evening, after the publishing of this report). The FIR, filed on Afsar’s complaint, invokes the charges of rioting, criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt. It names five people, including Ajay, and lists another 8 to 10 unidentified people as accused.

“We have registered an FIR on the basis of a complaint letter given by Afsar. We arrested three accused and assured action against others also,” said Kanpur South Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Anil Kumar. 

According to Kumar, Afsar became the victim of an “old tussle” between his family and another that lives in their neighbourhood. The tussle, which allegedly began in July, has seen the neighbouring family — who are Hindus — accuse Afsar’s relatives of a conversion attempt as well as molesting their daughter. 

“Afsar is a relative of one of three youths accused of molesting their neighbour’s daughter recently. An FIR was also lodged against them at the Barra police station in this regard,” Kumar said. “He became a victim of an old tussle between the two neighbours.” 

Kumar said police are investigating the matter in keeping with the complaint, adding that a security detail has been posted outside Afsar’s house on his request.

While Afsar’s family has sought the arrest of all the accused named in the FIR, the Bajrang Dal — the fringe Hindu Right-wing outfit that is believed to have intervened in the matter at the behest of Afsar’s neighbours, and whose men were allegedly involved in the assault — has accused police of an unfair investigation.

Bajrang Dal member Krishna Tiwari told the media that they “came to save a Hindu daughter from religious conversion”. “Police who didn’t take action in the one-month-old matter have now arrested my colleagues who had no fault,” he said. 

The National Commission for Minorities Friday took suo motu cognisance of the matter and sent a notice to the Kanpur Police Commissioner, saying the incident has “hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community…”

The panel has sought information regarding the mental and physical well-being of the child seen in the video… and arrests made pertaining to the case so far”, among other matters. The commission has sought a response within a week. 

Also Read: Riots changed Hindu-Muslim dynamics in NE Delhi. For some, it’s ‘hateful beyond repair’ now

‘What is my daughter’s fault?’

Describing the assault, Afsar told ThePrint he was driving his e-rickshaw around 3 pm Wednesday when a group of people started abusing and beating him. According to Afsar, they were chanting, “Yeh mulla chor hai (This Muslim is a thief).”

Afsar claimed they threatened to kill him and his family. When they asked him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, Afsar added, he complied, “but they still beat me up”.

“While they were beating me up, my daughter also got injured. What’s her fault?” he added, in tears, saying he was saved by police.

Confirming the police account, Afsar said the root of the assault lies in an old dispute with a neighbour. The accused he named in the complaint include Ajay ‘band wala’, Ajay’s son Don, Keshu Neta, Ramesh and Rani.  

Rani, Afsar said, had an argument with his relative Quresha Begum last month, after which both sides registered police complaints against each other. 

Speaking to ThePrint, Quresha said her son’s rickshaw “accidentally brushed past Rani’s vehicle on 9 July, and a verbal spat ensued”. “Later, Rani accused me of forced religious conversion and my son of teasing her daughter,” she added.

Rani alleged Quresha told her during the argument to convert her daughter’s religion and get her married to her son — a charge denied by the latter.

Rani said she approached police for help but wasn’t offered any. On Wednesday, she added, she approached some Bajrang Dal people who were in the vicinity. 

“Police were not helping us so we thought of informing the Bajrang Dal because they take a stand for Hindus,” Rani told ThePrint. “We told them about the incident. They came to meet us but suddenly they saw Afsar and a verbal spat started. I don’t know anything after that. Police is not favouring us.”

Salman, a relative of Afsar, said the assault took place 300 metres from an intersection where the Bajrang Dal was holding a meeting. The assault, he added, took place just after the meeting.

Chacha Afsar, who had no fault, no idea what’s going on in this matter, became a victim,” he added.

In a statement, Kanpur South Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Raveena Tyagi said Thursday that “on 12 July, one Quresha Begum got an FIR lodged against Ramesh and his wife Rani Gautam on charges of assault”. 

“Then Ms Rani got an FIR lodged against Saddam, Salman and Mukul, the other side, under IPC Section 354 (whoever assaults or uses criminal force on a woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty),” she added.

Following the arrests, some members of the Bajrang Dal staged a protest outside the office of the DCP Thursday. They left only after police promised a fair investigation.

This is an updated version of the report

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Indian Muslims have come to terms with Hindutva. They are now looking for survival strategies


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