The Imam of Asansol, who lost his son about a week back, has put the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata party on the back foot by delivering a three-line message of peace. The message was so strong, following the lynching of his son, State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said on Sunday that Imam Mohammed Imdadullah’s “actions are praiseworthy.”
“He has set an example by calming down the crowd and controlling emotions. Even after the death of his son he ensured that the situation did not go out of control,” Mr. Ghosh told The Hindu.
Even an official of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Asansol spoke on similar lines, albeit with a caveat.
“If he has said such things to the crowd then it is a commendable act. We support anyone who takes a positive stand on the basis of principles and not religious division,” a senior RSS official of Asansol said on condition of anonymity. However, there were attacks on the Hindus too, he added.
Eminent Bengali writer Joya Mitra, a resident of Asansol, too said the situation would have been “worse if the Imam had not reacted fast” standing in front of his dead son’s body.
The video circulating on a messaging application shows a crowd of men in white caps, carrying a coffin, covered with a red cloth. Imam’s 16-year-old son, Md. Sibghatullah, whose school leaving examination just got over, was lying inside the coffin. He was lynched last Wednesday when he and his elder brother had gone to the nearby OK Road mosque, about 500 metres south of the Noorani Mosque.
There was tension in the area over an “offensive song” being played from a Ram Navami rally and within hours clashes erupted. In the song, which The Hindu has a recording of, it was clearly said “Topiwale bhi sar jhukake Jai Sri Ram bolega…” [Men in caps will soon lower head to say Jai Sri Ram]. Repeated playing of the song in an area with mixed population annoyed the Muslims, leading to an altercation and clashes.
“Sibgatullah along with his brother went near the mosque to see what the commotion was about and was caught by the mob. His body was found late on Wednesday night,” said Mr. Imdadullah, the Imam of Noorani mosque on the northern edge of the city.
Following the incident, on Thursday afternoon, as the Janaza Namaz, or the funeral prayer began the crowd, which was estimated at 10,000 by the police, was seemingly turning restive. Realising that the situation was fast slipping out of control Imdadullah, father of Sibgatullah, asked for a microphone, which he usually never uses to deliver a sermon. He said: “If you love me then don’t indulge in any violence and let peace prevail. I don’t want any more lives to be lost. If you resort to any violence then I will leave the mosque and the city.”
On Saturday, as The Hindu reached the Noorani Mosque to meet Imam Imdadullah, he was busy talking to local residents in his second floor room. He explained why he had to calm the crowd down.
“I don’t have words to express my feelings after having lost my younger son…” he said. “But I also didn’t want any further violence to take away anyone’s loved ones…I realized that violence was imminent, so I had to speak up.” Locals said the Imam’s speech calmed down the “enraged crowd” and prevented bloodshed. The police too confirmed that the Imam made their job easy.