The case of Asif, Mandir-MasJid, water and blood!
The whole Asif story, its positives, negatives and more
Asif with injuries on his head
Asif is a 14-year-old boy graduating to teens, experiencing a change in his voice. He is a causal rag picker and kabadi wala. His father, Habib, is a daily wager. He has three younger siblings. They live in a small kuccha house, for nearly 16 years, near Dasna. It is an underdeveloped, local hamlet of sorts inside Ghaziabad, a well-developed district in Uttar Pradesh. (Dasna is also infamous for being a hub for local goons and multiple (alleged) red light zones).
For lack of work ‘baildaari’ as it called in local parlance, Habib doesn’t go out daily. Asif goes to fetch useless items from across half of Ghaziabad and sells it for bare minimum to a local vendor. That’s how the family manages their meals. Whenever Asif is hungry or thirsty, or the family for that matter, he, a Muslim, stops at a small temple at Dasna Gate close to his home, drinks water with the permission of its priest (pujari) who has been here for decades, eats food, often takes some home with some dessert which actually is prasad given to the devotees.
The halt at the temple and packing some free food for the waiting family is a routine with Asif who reaches home around 6.30 daily, after a day’s toil.
Little did Asif know that his usual stoppage in this temple on March 11 will cause him a scar for life, devastate his family and embroil the whole nation into another shameless event and fetch international disgrace, once again.
This temple displays a new board now. It reads Musalmanon ka pravesh varjit hai (Muslims are prohibited entry inside temple premises). An unlettered Asif, enters the premise as usual, seeks permission from the old priest for water, he allows but as he is going back after drinking water, he is asked by another priest, why had he come inside? He says, ‘to drink water’. He commands the boy to follow him for ‘making a video’ behind the premises. The excited teenager cannot smell the rat. Instead, happy, he goes with him at the back of the temple. He meets a young man there who asks him why he came in while grabbing him by his face. Asif again says, ‘to drink water’. Before he can understand anything, few more men surround him; and the one who had asked him the question twists his hand enough to break it. The boy falls, writhing in pain. A voice can be heard in the viral video to hold the boy tight, show his face clearly, while making filming him being pounded black and blue and hitting his private parts mercilessly, rejoicing, “Aaj hume aik aur mulle ko napunsak bana diya’ (we have rendered a (Muslim) clergy impotent today, once again). The boy while pleading, ‘Uncle, please leave me. I just came to drink water’….faints. A worried voice can be heard, “Stop it. He will die…” To bring him back to consciousness, they splash water on his face, and throw him out of the temple.
Asif sees two police personnel standing. He pleads for help. They refuse. And say he should visit police station to get help. Asif reaches home somehow. Tells his father. And next day they reach the police station, where Asif gets some check-ups and x-ray done spread over a good time.
Reports are awaited.
The mental scars, however, could neither be checked, nor bothered about.
As one Zubair, a fact-checker with Alt News tweeted the story with video first, the news that not even a single “mainstream media” showed, went viral online along with Asif’s interview by several alternate media personnel, lapped up by the users on the Facebook, twitter, hashtags, instagram et al. A frenzy followed.
The Ghaziabad Police swings into action. Arrests the culprit namely Shringi Yadav, tweets instantly.
The culprit Shringni Yadav being arrested BY UP police
Since then, this incident has become another in the league of Muslim bashing, Muslim hatred and Islamophobia in an India which swears by the Constitution that gives all citizens the right to choose religion and religious practices.
Sooner than later, a young man shouting abuses and threats to Asif supportersgoes viral. Proclaimed to be from a “Mahakaal Team” accompanied with Bajrang Dal (a Hindu outfit in pretext of saving Hindu religion and places) and workers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (a self-proclaimed army of Hindu servers), surround the temple area.
The youth shouting he would behead skull cap wearers and those who defend him
They are openly challenging anyone with “Jaali wali topi” (the Muslim’s skull cap) and others to come there and dare report/malign the Hindu religion/temple, “would be be-headed openly, especially the Muslims”. He has also called Alka Lamba, the firebrand primary member of the Indian National Congress, names, who has challenged these guys and criticised the act. in her tweet.
Alka Lamba called names for defending Asif by Mahakaal team youth
While, the unfortunate incidents has caused a heart-break among secular Hindus of the nation, attempts are on, to bridge the gap between the communities at large. The social media is abuzz with messages from the people from the creative fraternity, and others apologising to Asif, on behalf of the other non-Muslims.
For instance, Logan Samuel, a Chennai-based Paster says, “We have started a facebook movement called #SorryAsif, and apologised to Asif. “People from all the faiths have come on our wall and apologised while condemning the act.”
Paster Logan Samuel
The number on this site had counted 4. 4K when the story was going to the print. It includes veteran Hindi film actor Naseeruddin Shah, who says, “This is an apology, not just for you…But for innumerable, unreported instances of injustice across our country…#SorryAsif.
Actor Naseeruddin Shah
Activist/actor Swara Bhaskar too has tweeted with hashtag sorryasif.
Actor/activist Swara Bhaskar has tweeted saying SorryAsif
If the comments on the page are growing by leaps and bound, the anti-social elements are let lose defending the thrashing of the boy, in the name of saving the Hindu religion and its religious sites. Such posts are full of abusive language and open threats, by individuals, and people from self-proclaimed Hindu saving (illegal) outfits.
People who are not active on social media for fear of being trolled and harmed, are worried.
Considering Indian Hindus are there in most foreign nations doing well on top positions, Subodh Sharma (a government servant, ex-member of national award committee - name changed on request), rues, “Those who do such heinous crimes, fail to realise that Indian Hindus are there in all the countries. Seeing such situations here, if those nation heads start throwing them out of their countries, what will happen to India? See President A P J Abdul Kalam, is he not loved by all the Indians because of his contribution to the country? Though they are digging out faults in Pandit Jawharlal Nehru but not Kalam. The fact is, the government cannot distribute free gas or electricity to any particular religion/community. Our government never distributed any awards based on religion, but merit. So why such cases are not taken on their merit? Why there has been no response from the government on the people who had taken law in their own hands? So why such acts should go unnoticed?” he fumes.
The gurudwara langar (the collective meal), we all know, welcomes people from all faiths to sit together and share the meal. Joginder Singh, a Delhi-based senior tax consultant says, “God made only humans, religion came later to unite people, not divide them, anyway. I have known of Hinduism as a tolerant religion. But few are trying to prove it otherwise.”
Places of worship have always been sacrosanct; independent of any policing. Viresh Verma, a Delhi-based fashion writer and publicist says that for the past few years he has started witnessing police deployed at worship sites, in the dead of the night. “When was it needed to have police near places of worship? Why should such thoughts even come? Vahan to bhagwan rehte hain, why policing there? Verma asks, “What shocks me is that, just to witness few Muslims in pain, the entire country has chosen a man who has held the nation to ransom!” He recalls, “Only the other day, we three friends me a Christian, and other two Hindu friends were going to visit Ajmer Sharif. They said to me, “what is this fake narrative of Hindu being danger in India? We don’t see it, else we wouldn't have been for the pilgrimage Sufi-Muslim's shrine.”
Fashion Publicist Viresh Verma feels pained seeing police deployed at religious sites for few years
“RSS is santani. It doesn’t advocate inhuman acts”
I spoke to a hard-core RSS ideologue on the subject. On condition of anonymity this veteran from the Sangh said, “See, it is true that the nation has been put to a great danger. We can’t stop some of the groups which have gone out of our hands. But the fact is, we let them do it as ultimately it will benefit us in the future, not our pawns though. But I do feel that after we collectively reap the benefit, I might lose some of my dearest friends from Islam and other minority. But, we, in the Sangh do not put our interest first, but of the organisation as a whole.”
Disagreeing to this, a scholar of several faiths, and RSS’ ideology, Anurag Mishra, (a sanatani as he prefers to be called), says, “What they have done is not dharma. Dharma to vo hai jo dharan karne yogya hai (religion is something that can be worn as an apparel). RSS is also sanatani”, he says adding, “what has happened is, against the RSS ideology. According to Santana Dharma, any act against humanity falls in the category of crime. The RSS opinion stream has also always been against any inhuman act. Some opportunists change their colour and appearance according to the power and do bad things by wearing a Nikkar or Gandhi topi. According to the Indian Penal Court, I recommend strict provisions against any guilty of inhuman acts and violation of human rights,” he asserts.
Scholar of several faiths Anurag Mishra says RSS is Sanatani, is against inhuman acts
But do we see any RSS ideologue criticising this act openly?
How would such things be changed then?
We at TNB believe that unless there is a liberal political leadership, things won't change so soon.
Singh feels, “When people will start feeling the pinch, there will be a change in the leadership too.”
All our movement including Shaheen Bagh, and farmers agistation etc. are just one year old. We just have token strikes like bank strike or Bharant Bandh etc. We don’t have the history of movements as such. We used to have movements during Imperial times, and against one enemy – the British Rule. "A movement means people should start coming on the roads and that’s what is happening now people have started coming on the roads.”
Such an incident is not one of its kind. It’s a planned radicalism, is what Singh belives. “The present government has come with thumping majority. As soon they came, they started spreading propagandas through whatsapp universities. Unfortunately, what they said was believed too. School syllabus are being changed. I have spent over 65 summers in the country and never voted for one party but the ones who worked at the ground level. But the fact remains, whether it was Congress, United front groups, or splinter groups who formed the government at the Centre, they did let the things go so bad.”
So, Singh assumes such acts in the heat of elections, will cost BJP and that “the BJP should be routed this time.” With that, the new political leadership will be doubly cautious of how it plays with religion and faith in future.
Meanwhile, there has been no reaction from any ‘liberal’ corporate houses, the (BJP) UP Government, Government at the Centre, and Ministry of Home Affairs which could have taken cognisance of the incident and acted suo-moto, (even) considering the flare up could cost them in forthcoming elections.
Ministry pages showing no reaction on the same
But, in all that, I see one ray of hope. The older priest at the temple, who had been there for decades, observing Asif and his family often coming there for water and food, did not stop him for drinking water.
“Pani peena hai beta? Pee lo”, he had said to Asif, as usual.
Do you also feel some positivity there?
Also among many, a young Hindu girl Neha Bharti has tweeted this picture of her;s at Jama Masjid, Delhi, saying she goes to Jama masjid often, sees people making vazu (ablution), drinks water from the mosque hauz, and feels peace. "No one has ever asked my name or religion". she tweets. Here is her post.
Do you get the undercurrents of love and harmony?