The Nuh police have identified an imam of a mosque in Nalhar who allegedly made a fake announcement to instigate communal clashes on July 31. Police said they have gathered ample evidence to show that his announcement triggered violence outside the Nalhar temple.
Police said after the imam relayed the message, others shared it on their social media accounts and on WhatsApp groups. The suspect, identified as Fajru Miyan, resided in the mosque and has been on the run since August 1, police added.
Nuh police and the special investigation team (SIT) that was formed to investigate the communalclashes that erupted in Nuh on July 31, have identified 211 people involved in the violence.
Violence broke out in Nuh district on July 31, when Muslim residents attacked a religious procession by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), and then pelted stones, vandalised and torched private and police vehicles, and allegedly surrounded a local temple where several Hindus, police personnel and media professionals took refuge. With several members of the procession also brandishing arms, the standoff turned into a communal brawl that raged for a couple of days.
Nuh superintendent of police Narender Bijarniya said, “Many people have confirmed that they had heard the announcement made on the loudspeakers which led to panic. The imam’s act purportedly incited Muslims in the neighbourhood. He had said that Hindus participating in the Jalabhishek yatra looted Muslim-owned shops”.
SP Bijarniya said that they are conducting a thorough investigation and will take strict action against those found involved in spreading fake news and rumours.
The SIT during the interrogation of suspects had found that the rumour was spread from the mosque through the loudspeakers used for offering prayers. “Around 1pm, during afternoon prayers (namaz), the imam announced that Hindus have attacked Muslim shopkeepers and were looting valuables and cash after which Muslim men surrounded the Nalhar temple,” said a senior police officer associated with the case.
Police said the announcement set off a wave of anxiety among residents and served as a trigger point for the ensuing communal escalation.
A case was registered at Hathin police station on August 14 against unidentified suspects for delivering hate speeches under Section 153A (act prejudicial to harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 505(1)(a) (unlawfully assembled and created rioting to promote enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), police said.
SP Bijarniya said they have formed teams and are also conducting raids in Mathura and Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh to arrest the imam. “A search operation is underway as many of the suspects who have been identified are yet to be arrested. We have so far registered 60 FIRs and arrested 245 people,” he added.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Nuh, Aftab Ahmed said that he was unaware if the imam was involved in inciting the mobs. “The namaz was held at 2pm on July 31 and announcements were made for it, but I am not sure whether the imam made fake announcements,” he said.