At­tempt to In­cite Ha­tred

A Meo Mus­lim shrine is at the heart of a brew­ing com­mu­nal storm

India Today - - NATION - By Ro­hit Par­i­har

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.”

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