A large section of Hindus are enjoying the sight of Muslims getting flogged openly for trying to vandalise a Garba event in a village of Gujarat. Videos of the incident that have gone viral show a large group of young people rounded up, the group's members called near a pole one by one and, with his chest held against the pole, a man — reportedly a police officer in plain clothes — flogs his hips with a stick. This happened two nights ago in District Kheda of Gujarat, outraging Muslim and leftist Hindu onlookers.
The opposition in Gujarat has identified the flogger as a police officer. The Indian National Congress (INC) has demanded that action be taken against the cop.
On 3 October during Navratri celebrations in Village Undhela, a group led by two individuals Arif and Zahir had pelted stones, injuring six people, DSP Kheda had informed the press that day. "All the suspects are being identified and strict action will be taken. Police have been deployed in the village and necessary arrangements have been made," Rajesh Gadhiya, the police officer, had said.
The flogger carried a holstered gun on his belt, the videos show. Those flogged are then seen folding their hands before a cheering crowd before being directed by the men in plainclothes to get into a police van nearby.
A similar incident: Houses of Muslims who pelted stones at Garba venue in Mandsaur razed
Sarpanch of Undhela village in Matar taluka Indravadan Patel said, “The police arrested 10 of the 43 accused (for the clashes at the garba), brought them to the spot where the garba was held and punished them.” His is the village where the stone-pelting took place.
While the identities of those who were flogged are yet to be ascertained, the police confirmed that all the 10 who were arrested for allegedly disrupting the Garba the previous night were Muslims.
Patel said he had organised the garba and claimed to have sustained head injuries in the clashes.
Ahmedabad Range IGP V Chandrashekhar, said, “We are yet to ascertain the genuineness of the video.” Kheda district SP Rajesh Gadhia said he “would look into the alleged video”.
Asked about the incident of 3 October, Nadiad DSP V R Bajpayee, who reached the spot, said: “A mob belonging to the Muslim community tried to halt the garba celebration at the temple… It was followed by stone pelting and rioting. One GRD jawan and a police personnel were also injured in the riot. A total of 43 people have been identified and booked along with an unidentified mob of about 150 persons, which includes women.”
Reacting to the video clips, Congress MLAs Imran Khedawala and Gyasuddin Sheikh said the men seen flogging the miscreants in the videos were police and demanded that they be “immediately suspended”.
Khedawala and Sheikh posted similar messages on Twitter: “The police pinned the accused to the electricity pole and thrashed them with sticks while the public applauded… The officials who took the law in their hands should be immediately suspended.”
Abdul Karim Malek, president of Madhya Gujarat Muslim Samaj Seva Samiti, said the stone-pelting occurred “because there was a misunderstanding that a riot had broken out as there was loud shouting and screaming at the time of the garba being played”.
A similar incident: Muslim organisers of Garba on being removed arrive with gang to disrupt event
“Some stones were pelted from both sides and it blew up into a big clash. While we were at the police station trying to have a cross FIR lodged, we also heard that the police had assaulted some of the arrested accused in public. We will take legal recourse if the police department does not initiate disciplinary action in this matter,” Malek said.
The village sarpanch at a chowk facing the Tulja Bhavani temple, which shares a wall with a madrassah, had organised the Garba. “I had taken a pledge during the 2021 panchayat elections that I would organise the garba for one night of Ashtami at the temple. The village has a separate garba for locals every day. However, they (mob) did not want us to carry on,” Patel, the sarpanch, said.
The FIR in the case, citing Patel’s complainant, states: “When my family members and villagers from our community were playing garba near the Tulja Bhavani temple, we saw a group of Muslim men… of our village gather near the mosque located across the temple, led by two accused…”
The FIR states: “They began abusing the women playing the garba and asked them to go back home. Within minutes, a huge mob gathered and began vandalising the vehicle of the DJ and in no time, they began pelting stones at us.” It also states that one of the women at the garba was allegedly assaulted by women from the mob.
All the suspects, including the unidentified mob, have been booked under various IPC sections, including 307 (attempt to murder), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with a deadly weapon likely to cause death) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings by insulting religion or religious beliefs).
In a separate Garba-related incident, a clash broke out in Surat after some pepple armed with wooden sticks attacked bouncers deployed in Thakorji Wadi at VIP road late on 3 October. Two of the bouncers were injured and hospitalised, the police said, adding that no complaint had been registered.
One of the bouncers, who identified himself as Ahmed Khan, said they were attacked by the Bajrang Dal for working at the garba. When contacted, South Gujarat Bajrang Dal (Suraksha) president Devuprasad Dubey said, “We got information about Muslim bouncers hired by the organisers… Our team reached the spot and told them to stay away. After an argument, a fight broke out.”