Arrested for offering namaz in a temple compound after an interfaith peace and solidarity pilgrimage Faizal Khan convener Khudai Khidmatgar was sent to 14-day judicial custody by Mathura court. Khan tested positive for Covid-19 and has been sent to institutional quarantine, reported The Hindu quoting lawyer Suyash Tripathi, who is also a member of Khudai Khidmatgar, the NGO that works for communal amity in society.
Faizal Khan was arrested for allegedly offering namaz in the compound of Nand Baba temple in Barsana on October 29. Khan had returned to Delhi the same night, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested Khan on November 2, charged him under section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 295 (defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 505 (public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. The FIR, which was registered on November 1 with the Barsana police station in Mathura, names has been registered against Faisal Khan, Chand Mohammad, Aalok Ratan and Nilesh Gupta.
Khan was arrested from his home in the Okhla area of Delhi on Monday, handed over to the Uttar Pradesh police at the Jamia Nagar police station. The FIR stated that: “Faizal Khan and Chand Mohammad offered namaz within the temple premises without the permission of the priests and hurt the sentiments of the Hindus. Their associates clicked their photos and made them viral on social media. They might be receiving foreign funding and it might be an attempt to create communal tension in the region,” the Hindu quoted Kanha the temple priest who had filed in the FIR.
Khan has been on a communal harmony tour last month, it was on the last day of his ‘84 kos’ trip that he visited the famed Nand Baba Mandir on October 28. Initial videos of his interaction with the attendants, and the priest at the temple showed warm friendly conversation. “We are here for generating goodwill. There is everything in the world, what is missing is love and in the Brij region I have felt copious amounts of love… Krishna belongs to all, his love belongs to the mankind…” said Khan. The chats end with the Hindu priest offering Khan a small leaf bowl of prasad, and inviting them to stay for a meal.
According to Pawan Yadav, spokesperson Khudai Khidmatgar those present at the temple allowed Khan to offer namaz in the temple compound itself. He stated that the temple priest and others told Khan, “You are already in the home of God so why do you need to go anywhere else?” After Faisal Khan completed his prayers they stayed on and accepted the lunch invite in the same temple.
The organisation has opposed “all the allegations put on Faisal Khan, his associates Chand Mohd., Nilesh Gupta and Sagar Ratna.” They state that Khan and the team focus on communal harmony, and work to “counter any forms of religious extremism in this society”. They added that “many Hindu religious institutions have appreciated and acknowledged the work of Faisal khan for his uncompromised work for peace and brotherhood.”
Khan has been getting support from all corners of citizenry, who hail him as someone who works to promote brotherhood and understanding between different religions.
According to The Hindu, Dr. Kush Kumar Singh who shares the residence with Khan as a “social experiment” said the latter has a deep understanding of the Hindu religion and it had been widely acknowledged,“I am a Hindu living in a Muslim dominated area but we celebrate Janamasthmi with great fervour. The NGO has professionals from different communities and we work towards removing the cobwebs from people’s minds,” said Dr. Singh from Mathura.
Pawan Yadav, spokesperson Khudai Khidmatgar has stated that those present at the temple allowed Khan to offer namaz in the temple compound itself. He stated that the temple priest and others told Khan “you are already in the home of God so why do you need to go anywhere else?” After Faisal Khan completed his prayers they stayed on and accepted the lunch invite in the same temple.
However, the temple priest Kanha said he stopped Khan because of the skull cap, “When he shared his thoughts, we were impressed with his deep understanding of Krishna and Hindu texts. That’s why I recorded the conversation. I gave him the prasad and offered him to have lunch with us. But they refused and said they were in a hurry. There was no discussion on offering namaz in the temple premises. Later, the guard told us that they were offering namaz, and when he stopped them, they left. We have no personal animosity against him as thousands of people of different faiths come to Krishna’s abode every day. We just want to find out their real motive.”
Meanwhile, four men were held for ‘reading Hanuman Chalisa’ at Mathura eidgah, reported the Indian Express. The men reportedly entered the eidgah around 10 am on Tuesday and recited the Chalisa. According to police, the accused – Saurabh Lambardar, Kanha, Raghav, and Krishna Thakur – did this in response to Faisal Khan offering namaz at the Nand Baba temple.
Superintendent of Police, Rural Mathura, Shirish Chandra was quoted by IE: “It was brought to our notice through social media that some men read Hanuman Chalisa at an eidgah in Govardhan area. While it was claimed that the act was to promote peace, it was done in a wrongful manner. The four have been issued challans under Section 151 of CrPC. No complaint has been received against them.” The men hail from Govardhan area and are not affiliated to any religious organisation.
The news report added that in neighboring Agra district, unidentified people defaced gates of three mosques in the city. “FIRs have been filed (and) strict action will be taken against the accused. We are in the process of identifying the accused,” SSP, Agra, Babloo Kumar told the media, adding, the police received information through local residents that “some people had used a saffron-coloured spray paint on the gates of mosques.” According to Agra police, three FIRs have been filed in Tajganj, Loha Mandi and Rakaganj police stations under IPC Section 295A (deliberate act intended to outrage religious sentiments) against unknown persons. The police are scanning CCTV footage to trace the identity of the accused. The paint was removed after the police were informed, residents said.
Another man was arrested inBalrampur district on Monday for allegedly posting objectionable contents against Hindu deities on his Twitter handle, police said on Tuesday. “The language used in the post was highly objectionable. That is why we have arrested the man, identified as 30-year-old Zafar Hussain, and registered a case against him,” Balrampur SP Dev Ranjan Verma was quoted by IE.
Faisal Khan’s arrest has been condemned across the country, with many organisations issuing statements of solidarity and demanding that all the peace activists be released immediately.
Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy has expressed shock at the arrest of Faisal Khan and three others for promoting communal harmony. They stated that they were “stunned & surprised at the fact that Faisal Khan & his associates Chand Muhammad, Alok Ratan & Nilesh Gupta have been booked & arrested for praying, offering namaz within the premises of the Hindu Temple, namely the Nand Baba Temple in Mathura. It was at the behest of the good Panditji himself that the namaaz was offered. It was during their interaction, when the Azaan was heard & Faisal said that they would have to leave for namaaz. The Panditiji stated that this Temple too is the house of God & that he could pray here itself.”
Khan’s arrest stated the group was “both shocking & alarming that an act that actually epitomises the syncretic culture of our unique Indian tradition, is now viewed by some religious extremists as an act of provocation.”
They added that Faisal Khan and his friends were undertaking “a parikrama, visiting various Temples & Mosques, interacting with people of all communities, building bridges & attempting to heal a society that is being increasingly torn apart by polarising extremist religious & political forces.”
The statement reiterated that Faisal Khan has only “mirrored the best traditions of this country, stated the IMSD where Temples, Mosques, Churches, Gurudwaras & Viharas open themselves up for interfaith dialogue & prayer. Our country is where recently the Udupi Krishna Mutt hosted an iftar for Muslims & appealed for communal harmony. Where a Gurudwara hosted Namaz for Muslims caught in heavy rain on Eid ul Azha. Where Muslims let Sikhs use the historic Lal Masjid mosque for preparing, serving Langar. Where a Church hosted Namaz. Where a Mosque organised a Hindu wedding with all rituals & served a vegetarian feast.”
The entire statement may be read here:
We are shocked and surprised at the fact that Faisal Khan & his associates Chand Muhammad, Alok Ratan & Nilesh Gupta from the peace-promoting Khudai Khidmatgar organisation have been booked & arrested for praying, offering namaaz within the premises of the Nand Baba Temple in Mathura. It was at the behest of the temple’s priest that the namaaz was offered. When the azaan was heard during their interaction with the priest and others, Faisal said he needed to go for namaaz. On this, the temple priest stated that the temple too is the house of God so he could pray there itself. Faisal did so and then departed for the next phase of their peace yatra. Later some people took offence and the police have filed complaints u/s 153(A), 295 & 505 of the IPC at the Mathura police station. Soon after this Faisal was arrested from Delhi and taken to UP.
It’s both shocking and alarming that an act that actually epitomises the syncretic culture of our unique Indian tradition is now viewed by some religious extremists as an act of provocation.
In fact Faisal Khan, the founder convenor of the Khudai Khitmatgar and his friends were on a parikrama, visiting various temples and mosques, interacting with people of all communities and building bridges in an effort to heal a society that is being increasingly torn apart by polarising extremist religious and political forces.
Faisal Khan has only mirrored the best traditions of this country, where temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and viharas are often open for interfaith dialogue and prayer.
Our country is where recently the Udupi Krishna Mutt hosted an iftar for Muslims and appealed for communal harmony. Where a Gurudwara offered space for namaz to Muslims caught in heavy rain on Bakri Idd. Where Muslims let Sikhs use the historic Lal Masjid mosque for preparing, serving langar. Where a church hosted Namaz. Where a mosque organised a Hindu wedding with all rituals and served a vegetarian feast.
This is the India that we know, that we have grown up in. The ‘New India’ it would seem, is the very antithesis of all that India has stood for over ages.
The Khudai Khitmatgar comes from this very rich syncretic age old tradition, the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan! The Khudai Khitmatgar organises programmes & yatras with the central purpose of inter-faith dialogue & communal harmony, helps people during times of distress, all for the cause of peace & unity.
IMSD demands that all the cases imposed upon them be withdrawn and Faisal Khan and his associates be set free immediately!
Javed Anand (Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy, IMSD, National Convenor, Mumbai)
Feroze Mithiborwala (IMSD, National Co-Convener, Mumbai)
Bilal Khan (IMSD, 9958660556, Mumbai)
Anjum Rajabali (Film Scriptwriter, Mumbai)
Amir Rizvi (Designer, Mumbai)
Amol Madame (Writer, Mumbai)
Afaque Azad (Musician, Social Activist, Mumbai)
Arif Kapadia (Social Activist, Mumbai)
Anil Hebbar (Business entrepreneur, Mumbai)
Askari Zaidi (Mumbai)
Prof. Brinelle Desouza (Mumbai)
Chayanika Shah (LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Mumbai)
Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas (Academic Administrator, Mumbai)
Fahad Ahmad (Phd Research Scholar, Student Leader, Mumbai)
Guddi S. L. (Editor, Janata Weekly)
Geeta Sheshu (Journalist, Mumbai)
Jyoti Punwani (Journalist, Mumbai)
Kavita Srivastava (Human Rights & Civil Liberties, Jaipur)
Kishor Jagtap (President, Phule-Ambedkar Vichar Manch)
Lata P.M. (Writer, Bahujan Feminist, Pune)
Lara Jesani (Advocate Mumbai High Court)
Mukta Srivastava (Jagnyacha Haqq Andolan, Thane)
Masooma Ranalvi (Social Activist, Delhi)
Madhu Prasad (Right to Education)
Meera Sanghamitra (NAPM)
Dr. Suresh Khairnar (Veteran Gandhian Socialist)
Sandeep Pandey (Magsaysay Award Winner, Lucknow)
Dr. Sunilam (Leader of the Farmers movement, Indore)
Adv. Saif Mahmood (Delhi)
Sitaram Shelar (CPD, Mumbai)
Shweta Damle (Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association, Mumbai)
Shalini Dhawan (Designer, Mumbai)
Salim Sabuwala (Social Activist, Mumbai)
Ulka Mahajan (Jagnyacha Haqq Andolan)
Varsha Vidya Vilas (Sadbhavna Sangh, Mumbai)
Dr. Walter Fernandes (Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre)
Yashodhan Paranjpe (Social Activist, Mumbai)
Prof. Zeenat Shaukat Ali (Wisdom Foundation, Mumbai)
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) November 3, 2020