A shrine in Neemuch district in Madhya Pradesh was vandalized and three people, including the guard, were beaten, tied up and looted by 20 unidentified men in the wee hours of Saturday, alleging illegal conversions. The attack lasted four hours, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Bhedabhan shrine guard Noor Shah, 70, said the attackers used explosives to damage it, although police have yet to confirm this. The shrine is located in an isolated area on the MP-Rajasthan border, approximately 70 km from the district headquarters. A visitor to the shrine, Abdul Rajak, who was injured in the attack, is hospitalized.
Police filed a complaint against unidentified persons under sections 295 of the IPC (injury or defilement of a place of worship with intent to insult religion), 323 (willful injury), 147 (riots ), 148 (riots armed with deadly weapons) and 149 (illegal assembly with criminal intent).
Neemuch SP Suraj Kumar Verma said: “We have called in a demining squad, but so far it has not been established whether explosives were used. We also sent a sample for forensics.
Shah said 20 to 25 men attacked in the middle of the night and tied his hands and legs, as well as those of a couple from Udaipur in Rajasthan who were visiting the shrine. All three were then beaten, he said.
Shah shared a note which he said was given to him by the attackers. In the note, the attackers identify themselves as belonging to a ‘PFI’ from the Malwa region, adding: “Over the past two years, it appeared that Muslim activities in the Bhedabhan region have increased, although the majority population is Hindu. It has been observed that simple-minded Hindus visit the shrine, who are then forced to convert their religion…. “
The note warns: “If this shrine is restored, all the Muslims in the area will be wiped out and the administration will not be able to come to their aid. He further says that although their organization has no name or face, it closely monitors every shrine visited by Hindus and that if a Hindu visits a Muslim shrine, Muslims will suffer the consequences.
The People’s Front of India (PFI), which has come under the scrutiny of several government organizations, said there appeared to be a “well-thought-out plan” to drag it into the row. District official Imran Tawar said: “PFI is a public organization and it has nothing to do with the incident. The note is misleading and the language used in the note can never be emphasized by the PFI. I urge everyone to keep the peace … the police should take action and punish those responsible. “
The SP said the area is dominated by Hindus and people from both communities are visiting the shrine. “Contrary to the assertions in the note, we have not received any complaints of religious conversion in the district during the past year. We will also be investigating neighboring police stations in Rajasthan to determine if disgruntled elements there were involved in the act, ”Verma said.
A rally was organized in Neemuch by the Sarva Muslim Samajh Committee, which handed over a memorandum to the police demanding an “impartial” investigation. Wahim Khan, chairman of the committee, said: “This is a deliberate attempt to destroy community harmony in the area, because an attack on a religious place, regardless of religion, harms the community. We want the police to take appropriate action against those responsible. “