Other States

‘I was framed due to row over loudspeaker’

Sarfuddin Khan   | Photo Credit: de25 man

“I was framed simply because I was leading the fight to restore the loudspeaker of the mosque in my village,” says Sarfuddin Khan.

After spending 16 days in jail, Mr. Khan is finally back home and trying to understand why he was named in the FIR lodged by Bajrang Dal activist Yogesh Raj. He was among the four persons arrested by the U.P. police on charges of cow slaughter in Bulandshahr, but was released last week after being cleared by the Special Investigation Team, bringing to light the hurried manner in which the State police acted.

Ongoing dispute

Mr. Khan says he was falsely implicated due to a grudge held against him by the local Bajrang Dal activists over an ongoing dispute on the removal of a loudspeaker from a Muslim place of religious education and worship in his village Nayabans in Syana. He even led a campaign to restore the loudspeaker after the administration eventually removed it in May 2017 — soon after the Yogi Adityanath government came to power — on the complaint by the right-wing outfit. At the heart of it is a dispute whether it is a mosque at all.

Mr. Khan was among the seven persons named in the initial FIR lodged by Yogesh Raj, who is still absconding in the mob violence case. In his complaint, Yogesh Raj claims he saw the accused, which later turned out also included two minors, slaughtering cows in a field in Mahav village on December 3. However, Mr. Khan claimed he was attending an ijtema, a Muslim congregation, in Bulandshahr city some 40 km away from November 30 to December 4, at the time of the incident. He has photos and documents as proof.

“I was on volunteer duty at the vehicle parking of the ijtema when I got to know of the incident in Syana,” he says.

Local Muslims say the mosque in Nayabans had been functioning for the past 35 years though without accreditation. However, documents show that in May 2018, the mosque was registered under number 3,632 as Madni Masjid by the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board. Aas Mohammad, who is into tile business, got the registration done in Lucknow. He says the mosque, though unregistered, was functioning with a loudspeaker since 1982 and was set up earlier during the time of Babu Banarasi Das, a local MP and Chief Minister.

Map passed

“In 2013, we also got a map passed for the mosque, which was used only for azan during Ramzan,” said Mr. Mohammad.

However, despite the clearance from the Waqf Board, an electricity connection and a map, the administration did not restore the loudspeaker.

“While I campaigned to restore it, Yogesh Raj and others pressurised the administration to remove it,” says Mr. Khan, who is the president of the Madni Masjid body.

On June 22, he wrote to the administration saying that the absence of the loudspeaker was causing difficulty for the local Muslims, around 200 households, to hear the azan.

Syana SHO Kiran Pal Singh said that “the mosque” had installed a loudspeaker without permission. “That was later removed. It was a minor issue and got resolved,” he said, claiming to not know anything beyond this.

Balraj Dungar, Bajrang Dal convener in Bulandshahr, however, alleged that the local Muslims were trying to illegally “convert a madrasa into a mosque”. The outfit had also alleged that the loudspeaker was being used to seek donations for construction of a mosque.

Allegations rubbished

“If they put up a loudspeaker in a madrasa, which is not allowed, naturally there will be opposition,” said Mr. Dungar.

He said the local administration had acted on Yogesh Raj's complaint and removed the loudspeaker as they found his allegations correct. “Is there a BJP government only in Nayabans in Bulandshahr? How many loudspeakers have come off from mosques in other parts of the State? Loudspeakers in other mosques are still functioning,” said Mr. Dungar, rubbishing allegations that the government was targetting the local Muslims.

SC order

As per the administration, the complex was registered as a madrasa and not a mosque during the time of the dispute, said Syana Sub-Divisional Magistrate Avinash Singh Maurya. He said the loudspeaker was removed following a Supreme Court order and expiry of a time-limit to get the registration done.

However, Mr. Maurya said he had received applications from Muslims citing that they got the approval of the Sunni Waqf Board in according the structure the status of a mosque. But he did not clarify if the administration would allow the loudspeaker to be put up again. “We will see,” he said.

Mr. Khan says he had fulfilled all legal requirements and paperwork asked for by the officials but even then they were not acting on his demand to restore the loudspeaker. “Now we have even got all registrations done, but they don’t even look at our papers,” he says.

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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 2:57:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/i-was-framed-due-to-row-over-loudspeaker/article25823197.ece

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