A long-standing dispute over a mosque, simmering tension over the use of loudspeakers and the rise of the Bajrang Dal since Yogi Adityanath took charge as UP Chief Minister form the backdrop of the mob violence in which an Inspector was killed in Bulandshahr two days ago.
The manager of the Nayabans village mosque, Mohd Sarfuddin, was among four arrested Wednesday after they were named in a complaint of cow slaughter filed by Yogeshraj Singh, the main accused in the killing of Station House Officer Subodh Kumar Singh. Yogeshraj is on the run after police arrested four others Tuesday over the killing of the SHO.
According to police officers, Yogeshraj had first led protests against the use of loudspeakers in the mosque and complained to police during the Ramzan of 2016. Yogeshraj complained that loudspeakers should not be used because the mosque was a madrassa, the records show.
“As the tension escalated, police asked the mosque authorities to take down the loudspeakers. To maintain fairness, loudspeakers from the village temple were also removed,” said a police officer.
According to residents, a case related to an earlier mosque in the area, which was demolished in 1977, is pending in Allahabad High Court. Remains of the demolished mosque are still visible about 10 steps away from the mosque that is being used for prayer now.
“Hindus and Muslims have not clashed in the village since 1977. But tension has begun brewing in the last couple of years with Bajrang Dal increasing its activities here,” said Mohd Hussain, the brother of Sarfuddin, the arrested accused in the cow slaughter case.
“Those whom we have identified based on Yogeshraj’s complaint are associated with the mosque. Sajid owns a plot adjacent to the mosque that is often used for community functions. It appears that Yogeshraj used the discovery of cow carcasses to fix them,” said a police officer.
Apart from Sarfuddin, police have also arrested Sajid, Asif and Nanhe in the cow slaughter case. SP (City) Pravin Ranjan Singh said: “At first, we arrested Sarfuddin and Sajid. Based on their disclosures, we arrested Asif and Nanhe…We have enough evidence.”
All the four arrested were presented before a local court and sent to judicial custody. Speaking to The Indian Express while being taken to jail, Sarfuddin said: “I was called by an officer at the Syana police station who said that my name is in the FIR. When I went there, they arrested me. I told the police that I had not killed any cow, nor was I present in the village. I was part of the Tablighi Ijtema 50 km way when the incident happened.”
Sarfuddin’s brother, Hussain, said: “I don’t know why my brother has been booked. It looks like the police have arrested only those named by Yogeshraj in his FIR.”
Sajid, another arrested accused, told The Indian Express: “I don’t even stay in Nayabans any more, I am based in Faridabad. I have no role to play in any cow killing.”
The arrests and the case of cow slaughter had its share of drama when police called in two other suspects for questioning only to find that they were schoolboys — an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old. “Police called them twice. How can these boys kill any cows?” said a relative of one of the boys.
Records show that Yogeshraj’s complaint on the alleged cow slaughter in Mahav village nearby contradicts the version of local residents – and a video posted Wednesday on social media by Yogeshraj himself from an undisclosed location.
Yogeshraj had claimed in his complaint that he witnessed Sarfuddin and others slaughter the cows in Mahav village. But residents told police that they found the carcasses when they went to the fields in the morning. In the video, Yogeshraj claimed that he reached Mahav “after receiving information about cow carcasses”.
Apart from the four arrested, the seven named by Yogeshraj include Sudaif Chowdhary, Ilyas and Parvez. “Under Yogeshraj, the Bajrang Dal has been regularly taking out rallies in the village with the participants shouting provocative slogans. They also brandish swords and weapons in these rallies,” said a resident of Nayabans, who did not wish to be identified.
“Many complaints were given to local police. But no action was taken against Yogeshraj. His father was a nice man, and we had good relations with him. But Yogeshraj has disturbed the peace in this village,” said Mehmood, another resident.
The widening rift in the village, with about 200 Muslim households, is evident on the faces of its Hindu residents. “They keep constantly pushing for the mosque. When the matter is pending before the court, they should keep quiet,” said Vijender Singh, a resident.