Muslim bangle seller charged with sexual assault after being harassed by mob

Muslim bangle seller charged with sexual assault after being harassed by mob
Seller was accused by mob of using a fake Hindu name and selling bangles in a Hindu area of Indore

A Muslim bangle seller has been charged with molestation and fraud a day after he was beaten up in central India by a mob which destroyed his wares and accused him of working in a Hindu-majority area under false pretences, in the latest incident of targeted violence against a minority community.

The incident took place on Sunday in the city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh state where the man, identified by his first name Tasleem, was beaten mercilessly by a mob consisting of men from the majority Hindu community. The men accused Tasleem of assuming a fake Hindu name, suggesting that he was hiding his identity, presumably for a nefarious purpose.

The video of the incident, which has gone viral on social media, triggered widespread outrage. It showed the 25-year-old being beaten up by the group in a crowded street in the Banganga area in Indore. Unidentified men are heard using communal slurs at him as people around him watched.

“Take whatever you want. He should not be seen in this area anymore,” a man is heard saying as he takes out Tasleem’s stock of bangles from his bag. The man then asks people around him to come and thrash the victim, who is then pulled up by his T-shirt by a man from behind. Later, three or four men come forward and start thrashing him.

“The accused first asked my name and started beating once I revealed it. They also robbed Rs 10,000 (almost £100) that I was carrying and broke the bangles and other material that I had,” the victim said in his complaint to the police, quoted by Indian media outlets.

Three men have been held by the police and a case of rioting, assault, robbery, intimidation and trying to disturb communal harmony was registered against the men who thrashed Tasleem. However, that only happened after hundreds of people reportedly gathered outside the police station demanding action.

The police later on Monday also booked the victim on charges of molestation, based on the complaint of a minor. A case of fraud was also registered against Tasleem for carrying two identity cards — one with a Hindu name and the other with his Muslim name. The victim was later seen on a video shared on social media saying that his identity card had his village address and his alias on it, not a fake name.

“Old ID had my village name as Bhoora. In the new ID card, it is my actual name Tasleem. Both these IDs are genuine, neither are fake,” Tasleem is heard saying.

In a statement, the state’s home minister Narottam Mishra reiterated the accusations of the men who thrashed the Muslim man, saying: “If a man hides his name, caste and religion then bitterness comes in.” At the same time he claimed that the incident should not be given “communal colour”.

“He was using a Hindu name, though he belonged to a different community. He also had two different Aadhaar cards … he was selling bangles which our daughters wear and apply henna during Sawan (monsoon)… that’s how the altercation started,” the minister said.

The incident was met with widespread outrage as it comes after several such attacks on the minority community. Recently a Muslim man was thrashed in northern India’s Kanpur city by a Hindu mob, while the daughter of the victim was seen pleading for mercy. The man was accused of trying to convert a woman to Islam.

A Human Rights Watch report from 2020 said: “Muslims in India have been increasingly at risk since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014.

“Since the Modi administration first took office, BJP leaders have repeatedly made Hindu nationalist and anti-Muslim remarks in their speeches and interviews,” the report said.

“Mobs affiliated to the BJP have, since 2015, killed and injured scores of members of religious minorities amid rumours that they traded or killed cows for beef,” the report said. Cows are held sacred by many Hindus and consumption of beef, a meat that is eaten by a number of minority communities in India, is considered sacrilege.