Attempt to Incite Hatred
A Meo Muslim shrine is at the heart of a brewing communal storm
There is a new flashpoint of communal tensions in Rajasthan. On July 10, a police convoy of 200 vehicles descended on Sherpur in Alwar district, 22 km from Gopalgarh, to prevent the inter- faith forum Sadbhavna Manch from holding a meeting. “It was to avert attempts to offer namaz and remove Hindu symbols at Shri Lal Das Ji temple, revered by all faiths,” says the inspector general of police who led the operation, Saurabh Srivastava.
The shrine was built in 1705 over the tomb of Meo Muslim saint Lal Das, who founded the Laldasi panth. It attracts Muslim and Hindu followers, and is managed by a committee of Hindus, with Idris Saad, a Meo, as its priest.
The Meos of Rajasthan are a tolerant community and have close cultural ties with Hindus, from whom they converted. They allege that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has encouraged Muslim extremists by mishandling the September 2011 incident at Gopalgarh, where police had killed 10 Meo Muslims at a mosque, and by not letting Salman Rushdie attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this year. But, claims Srivastava, “We averted another Gopalgarh here. The Manch is communal and includes Muslim and Hindu leaders behind the violence there.” Police registered FIRs against two Manch leaders, state vice- president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties ( PUCL) Maulana Hanif, and Dalit activist Surajmal Kardam, for non- bailable offences.
Still in hiding, Hanif told INDIA TODAY: “Our meeting on July 11 was to oppose installation of Hindu idols in the shrine, and to assert the right of Muslims to offer namaz, and we had sought permission for it.”