In Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh, police have registered an FIR against 23 Muslim men for “promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion and hurting religious sentiments”, following a complaint that they had served beef biryani to Hindus at an Urs, a Muslim religious congregation, without informing them.
Local BJP MLA Brijbhushan Rajpoot had intervened in the matter and complained to the police that registered the case. A police officer said that the complainant had said that he would file an affidavit to withdraw the case, but the MLA urged him to lodge the complaint.
The incident reportedly occurred in the Charkhari police station area of the district on 31 August during Urs, observed by Muslim inhabitants of Village Salat. According to the locals, Urs is organised every year for the past six years at a local shrine.
The FIR stated that the Muslim hosts served buffalo meat mixed with rice without alerting the Hindus. The complaint says that the act was intentional, meant to hurt their religious sentiments.
Police registered the FIR under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Meanwhile, the BJP MLA said that when he had come to know of the incident, he asked the villagers to get an FIR registered. “On Saturday, there was an Urs (a Muslim congregation observing the death anniversary of a sufi) in Village Salat. Hindus, who are the majority community here, participate too and even donate for the Islamic event. At the event, every year there is a huge bhandara (feast) where vegeterian food is served. Even this year, around 10,000 people from 13 villages had come to attend it,” said the MLA.
“This year, when the feast started, the hosts served many Hindus rice on the pretext that it was ‘baba ka prasad’. When a few people started eating it, they found meat pieces and bones. When things escalated, a panchayat was called where the main accused accepted it was buffalo meat but added that it had been served by mistake. He apologised and offered to pay Rs 50,000 to arrange a shuddhikaran (purification). While some people agreed to it, others came to me. I went to the village and asked for an FIR to be registered against those responsible as they did this to knowingly hurt our religious feelings,” he said.
But the man who had filed the FIR has turned hostile even before reaching the court. The complainant, Rajkumar Raikwar, said that while only one person, Pappu Ansari, was responsible for serving beef without telling anyone, all the 22 others named in the FIR were innocent. Their names have been added on the direction of the MLA who “made us sign the complaint without us knowing what was it for”, he claimed.
Raikwar might be under pressure to change his statement, as Anoop Kumar Pandey, Station House Officer (SHO) of Charkhari Police Station, indicates. The SHO said that Pappu Ansari had promised a “biryani feast”, should his nephew recover from an illness and, as a result, his men served buffalo beef biryani at the event.
“While puri-sabzi was served at one stall, biryani was served at another. While those who eat non-vegetarian food ate the biryani, others did not. Later, there were rumours that there was buffalo meat in the biryani. I reached there and brought the situation under control. However, the MLA later intervened and matter was again raised. I told the MLA to give a complaint if something wrong has happened. Now, we have registered an FIR based on the complaint,” said the SHO.
Meanwhile, DIG of Chitrakoot range Deepak Kumar said he had heard about the alleged incident but was not aware if an FIR had been filed.