Two Muslim teens assaulted, forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ by men ‘avenging’ clash at Sufi shrine

A clash had erupted between two groups at Turabul Haq baba shrine on February 7.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Illustration of a hand holding a phone with 'hate' written on the screen.

February 11 was a typical Sunday evening for 19-year-old Irfan Pathan, a second-year polytechnic student at Parbhani’s Shivaji College. He was sitting in Rajagopalachari Garden, chatting with two friends, when a group of about 15 men allegedly attacked them.

Soon after, they allegedly assaulted a Muslim fruit vendor nearby, seemingly to avenge a communal clash that had taken place days before at a Sufi shrine.

Pathan told Newslaundry that men “ran” towards him at the public park on Vasmat Road at around 7 pm and asked him his name. On hearing “Irfan”, he said they began “beating me and hurling religious slurs”.

“They first slapped my face, and eventually began punching and kicking  me. Then they began forcing me to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” said Pathan, adding that he was too taken aback to “say anything”. 

The resident of Dhangar Moha village alleged the group continued to assault him when he didn’t chant the religious slogan but let go of his two friends, Awez and Rohan, when they complied.  Pathan said it was only after the park’s security guards intervened that he “managed to save myself and ran away”. 

“I informed my parents about the incident and left for my village right away. I did not lodge a case at that time as my parents asked me not to escalate the matter as it could affect my studies,” he said. He doesn’t know the identities of his attackers but alleged a neighbour called Aniket had “asked him his whereabouts” when he was heading to the park.

A video of the assault was then seemingly posted on social media by the perpetrators to the background of the song Kattar Hindi, badla to lenge, which loosely translates to “staunch Hindu will take revenge”. That’s when Pathan went to Nava Modha police station and filed a complaint.

But the video also contained footage of Pathan’s “attackers” dancing in front of a dargah to the song Woh Hindu hi kya jo apna dharm na pehchane, yeh hai bhagwadhari Shri Ram ke deewane (What kind of Hindu will not recognise their religion, these are saffron-clad followers of Shri Ram). Intriguingly, it also contained footage of another assault involving the same men. 

This involved an 18-year-old fruit seller: first verbally abusing him and then toppling his fruit cart on Vasmat Road.

The video showed Sayyad Muddasheer, wearing a skullcap, sitting on his cart when the men clad in saffron scarfs attacked him and turned the cart upside down. 

Muddasheer told Newslaundry, “It was between 7.30 and 8 pm when it happened. I was selling mudapple on my fruit cart opposite Madhur Bhoj hotel on Vasmat Road. I was wearing a skullcap…They passed me on motorcycles and hurled religious slurs at me. They went in the direction of Khanapur and  again came back after some time towards my cart.” 

Muddasheer alleged the men asked him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. When he didn’t, he said they assaulted him. He fell on the road and, as he lay there, he claimed the two men who had attacked him and returned and threatened to “stab and kill” him if stationed his cart on Vasmat Road again.       

Muddasheer said that apart from destroying his fruits and the cart, the men also smashed his phone, resulting in a loss of over Rs 23,000. “I am a poor man, who was just selling fruits. I didn’t even know them. They came from nowhere, and assaulted me, destroyed my fruits and smashed my phone.” 

Communal clashes at Turabul Haq baba shrine 

After assaulting Pathan and Muddasheer, the attackers reportedly went to Hazrat Turabul Haq Shrine and danced to provocative songs in front of the Sufi shrine. The shrine was the site of a communal clash days before, involving two groups during the Urs celebrations to mark the death anniversary of the Sufi saint.    

The 13-day event, which began on February 2 and will go on till February 15, sees the participation of all religions. But a few days into the celebrations, a group of 25-30 men reportedly wearing saffron scarves began raising slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” at the shrine. It happened on three consecutive days, after which clashes broke out between them and another group of Muslim youths on February 7, local activist Hafiz Sayyad Mohtasim told Newslaundry

Nava Modha police registered a case in the matter and arrested 24 people for hurting religious sentiments. Newslaundry reached out to Nava Modha police inspector Samadhan Chawre to ask about these incidents and the assaults, but he refused to comment.

On February 11, Shankar Deshmukh, leader of a Parbhani-based right-wing group called Shiv Pratishthan Hindu, called a meeting and advised youngsters not to go to Urs, and also declared that they will permit Urs to be organised in Parbhani from next year. 

Deshmukh told Newslaundry, “People from both Muslim and Hindu communities go to Urs. But then they started targeting boys who were going there wearing saffron scarves. In the February 7 clashes, Hindu boys were assaulted and a boy named Shrikant Magar was admitted to the hospital. We have  appealed to Hindu community to boycott it and from next year we will not let it happen.”

He also alleged that people from Hindu community were not allowed to set up shops near the shrine. On the attack on the Muslim teenagers, Deshmukh said “we don’t support that”.

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