Bajrang Dal activists allegedly assaulted 17-year-old boy and 7 others at Bhatsanagar, about 20 km from Shahpur, after receiving a complaint from one of his friends, who found the image to be objectionable
A display picture on the WhatsApp account of a minor boy proved costly for him, as about 20 members of a right-wing outfit took offence to the picture and assaulted the boy and seven others. The incident occurred at Bhatsanagar, about 20 kilometres from Shahpur, on Sunday evening after one of Faisal Shaikh’s friends saw the picture and found it offensive. He later informed the members of a right-wing outfit about the image he thought was objectionable.
The display picture that created the controversy
A student of FYJC (Arts) at a Shahpur college, 17-year-old Faisal had kept a display picture of a man sporting a Pakistani flag on his left cheek biting the cheek of a woman sporting the Tricolour.
A photo of Faisal holding a saffron-coloured flag during Shiv Jayanti
Commenting on the issue, Nazir Shaikh (40), BJP taluka president for Shahpur, said, “The display picture was seen by Naresh Bapat, who then informed the members of Bajrang Dal from our locality. The group had come with the intention of assaulting the boy.”
Nazir’s son Shoeb (18), the complainant, was also targeted by the gang, as he was with Faisal at the time of the attack.
“Despite apologising and assuring that Faisal would change his display picture, the enraged mob attacked them with iron rods and bamboos. Faisal and my son fled the spot with their friends Irfan and Sameer after their pleas to spare them fell on deaf ears. They then hid at Faisal’s residence. However, the gang followed them and forced their way into the house by breaking the door. They even abused Faisal’s family members, including a woman, and threatened to set the house ablaze. The entire episode reminded me of the Dadri incident,” Nazir said.
It was Nazir who reached Faisal’s residence with police after he received a call from a local informing him about the attack on four youngsters, including his son.
“Upon launching a manhunt for the culprits, we learnt that the gang had attacked the residence of Fakir Abdul Shaikh, which is just 500 metres away from Faisal’s residence. They attacked his son and a pregnant woman in the house. We [Muslims] have just 10 houses in the village and are always targeted,” added Nazir.
Speaking to mid-day Senior Inspector Sanjay Dhumal from Shahpur police station said, “The incident occurred on Sunday at 6 pm. We have arrested five people so far and a manhunt has been launched to nab the remaining accused. On Monday, we met local politicos and various community leaders, asking them to maintain peace in the area. There is no real issue here, other than misinterpretation of a harmless picture.”
The accused were identified as Naro Bapat (36), Naresh Bapat (36), Rahul Shirke (22), Jitendra Kashinath Shirose (22) and Martant Satpute. All five have been booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 149 (prosecution of common object), 452 (hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 504 (breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of the Maharashtra Police Act. They were produced in the court and have been remanded in police custody till Friday.