New Delhi: The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, was attacked by a 32-year-old man who tried to set him ablaze during Sunday evening prayers, police and witnesses said. The accused, said to be mentally unstable, was arrested.
The incident took place at the Jama Masjid when the man approached the Shahi Imam while the latter was praying, poured kerosene on him and tried to set him ablaze, younger brother Tariq Bukhari told IANS.
But the attacker failed to harm the Shahi Imam, one of the best known Muslim clerics in the country.
"The Shahi Imam did not receive any external injury," Tariq Bukhari said.
"The man was later caught by the Imam's security personnel and others who were praying. He was handed over to police," he said.
He was identified as Kamaluddin alias Kamal, a resident of North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.
Kamaluddin was taken into police custody but officials were yet to decide the charges under which he should be booked.
"Kamaluddin is believed to be mentally unstable. He poured kerosene on the Shahi Imam and tried to set him on fire with a cigarette lighter," Joint Commissioner of Police Sandeep Goel told IANS.
"If the Shahi Imam files a complaint against the man, he might be booked for attempt to murder," he said.
Apart from a lighter, a box of matchsticks was also found in Kamaluddin's pocket, police said.
Police said there was chaos when the attack took place because hundreds of people were praying in the sprawling redstone mosque, but the situation turned normal very soon.
Asked why the Shahi Imam was targeted, Goel said: "The man is mentally unfit, not mad.”
Additional Commissioner of Police Alok Kumar told IANS: "He told police that he travelled by train and reached Delhi yesterday (Saturday). He wanted to meet the Imam. When he failed to meet him despite several attempts, he attacked him.”
The man was being questioned late Sunday.
"We are trying to find out the reason why he wanted to meet the Imam," the official said. "At the time of the attack, the accused was alone.”
The Shahi Imam was also attacked by another mentally disturbed person last year during Friday afternoon prayers. The man had attacked him with a paper cutter. He too was overpowered and arrested.
The 17th century Jama Masjid, reputedly India's largest mosque, is located across the Red Fort.