Visit To A Village Where Video Of Hanuman Chalisa Inside A Mosque Has Sparked Row
A Hindu man recited ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ in a mosque after two Muslim men were photographed reading namaz in the famous Nand Baba temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district.
A small village of about 3,000 people in western Uttar Pradesh has become a centre of attention after a Hindu man recited Hanuman Chalisa and Gayatri mantra inside a mosque and uploaded a video of it.
While the man – a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader named Manupal Bansal – has said his act was meant to be a step towards healthy inter-religious relations, the fallout of the incident is that the Imam is no more employed at the mosque, and about 25 residents have been forced to sign a bond of Rs 1 lakh each and Manupal himself is underground.
A first information report (FIR) has been filed against him and the Imam.
On 8 November when this correspondent visited the village - Vinaipur in Baghpat district – both Hindu and Muslim residents said “what happened was right”.
It was after several such encounters that one realised that the two communities were referring to entirely different developments: While Hindu residents were calling reading of Hindu mantras in the mosque “right”, the Muslim residents were calling quitting of the Imam “right”.
The mosque, arguably the biggest structure in the village, is located near the entrance. A caretaker, who introduces himself as Abdul Haleem, says there has been no replacement of the Imam yet and he cannot comment on the matter as he is not an eyewitness.
However he shares the phone number of the former Imam.
Ali Hassan is a native of nearby Loni town. He agrees to talk over the phone but politely declines the request to meet in person.
He narrates the events on 3 November, which was a Tuesday: Manupal, who knows him well, approached him around 7 am, saying he wishes to recite Hanuman Chalisa in the mosque, inspired by two Muslims who performed namaz in a temple in Mathura.
Manupal said he wanted to set a similar example of communal harmony. Hassan told him he would need to consult others. Manupal approached him around 11 am with the same wish.
Hassan told him he was yet to consult his community. Manupal again visited the mosque at 2 pm, this time with a man in tow, saying he would only sit inside the premises and remember his “Bhagwan”.
“Now, I can’t stop anyone from entering the mosque and remembering their Allah or Bhagwan, can I? So I let him in,” says Hassan. “But I knew nothing about his plans of shooting the video.”
Manupal uploaded a video on his Facebook page and gave it the caption (as translated): “Setting a precedent for interfaith harmony, recited Hanuman Chalisa at Allah’s sacred place with consent.”
The 14-minute clip shows Manupal entering the mosque, greeting the Imam and taking seat on a carpet. An audio of Hanuman Chalisa plays in the background. Manupal sits through the Chalisa and later recites Gayatri Mantra.
The video has been shared around 3,000 times.
Hassan says that after the video sparked a row, he resigned from his post. “Soon after the video went viral, members of my community gathered at the mosque. I eventually offered to resign, taking responsibility for the mistake,” he says.
Hassan says he was not expelled. However, a Hindu resident near the mosque, a Sharma by surname (he requested not to write his name), says that Imam was shouted at, had expletives hurled at him, was heckled, and Muslim residents demanded he leaves the place immediately.
Hassan, when asked if losing the job would hit him financially, says that “by Allah ka reham and Bhagwan ki daya”, all three of his sons are employed at various mosques and are drawing decent salaries. “Thanks for asking, but I am 62 and would have retired in some time anyway. My sons are earning enough. In addition, I make some money by giving dua-tabeez to people. I have no regrets,” he says.
Hassan says he has worked at the mosque for 40 years.
Mohammed Nizamuddin, 60, lives right next to the mosque. He says Manupal Bansal should not have uploaded the video.
“Manupal trapped the Imam. He exploited his good nature. The Imam is a ‘shareef sajjan’ man,” says Nizamuddin.
“Manupal entered the mosque saying he wants to take the name of ‘uparwala’, but ended up reciting Gayatri Mantra. Arre, if you have to do this, do it in a temple.”
Nizamuddin says he does not know about the Mathura namaz case.
In the Mathura case, pictures of two Muslim men offering namaz inside the famous Nand Baba temple were circulated on social media. After the pictures triggered a controversy, the temple pujari, Kanha Goswami, complained to the police that the two Muslim men took no prior permission of the temple management before offering namaz and uploading the pictures on social media.
The police reportedly booked four people - Faizal Khan, Chand Mohammad, Alok Ratan and Neelesh Gupta, reportedly from a Delhi-based organisation called Khudai Khidmatgar – under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion and injuring), 295 (defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 505 (intention to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community).
As per reports, Faisal is president of the organisation, and while he and Chand read namaz, Alok and Neelesh clicked their pictures.
Nizamuddin was part of the crowd that confronted Imam Ali Hassan after the video went viral. “Imam had to go, there was no option. This could not have been avoided. The community can’t go against the Ulema,” he says.
Other Muslim residents decline to comment on the matter beyond “what happened was right”. A resident, who does not wish to be named, says that Muslims have decided that going forward, the mosque would be managed by a committee and not by any one Imam.
The village has about 800 Muslims from Tyagi jaati and about 2,000 Hindus from Gujjar jaati. The rest, also Hindus, are mostly from Valmiki and Badhai jaati.
A few metres from the mosque, Mahendra Singh Gujjar, Vijaypal Singh Gujjar and Balraj Singh Gujjar are sitting in the sprawling compound of a house. Mahendra is a former pradhan.
The three say they regret what happened to the Imam. They say the Muslims created an issue as they had been looking for an excuse to expel the Imam. They say the reason is that Hassan is not “kattar” (dogmatic).
“This Imam is a very good man. He is not kattar. He would contribute for bhandara at mandir as well. You would hear him take Bhagwan’s name as much as Allah’s,” says Vijaypal.
Mahendra nods, but says Manupal should not have uploaded the video. “If he had to read the aarti, he should have read it quietly,” he says.
Balraj interrupts, saying Mahendra is unaware of the Mathura temple-namaz case and this is why he is not appreciating Manupal’s move.
“If Muslims can read namaz in a temple, why can’t Hindus read Hanuman Chalisa in a mosque?” says Balraj.
Mahendra says he does not want to comment further.
Two young men, who Mahendra says are from his clan, are listening in. One of them says Manupal did the right thing. “Someone had to do this after Mathura. Our Manupal bhaiya did it.”
Manupal is a resident of adjoining Dagarpur, an almost all-Gujjar village.
Manupal himself is a Gujjar, whose original surname Bainsla has been twisted to Bansal in government records. Dagarpur has no mosque. Manupal is a frequent visitor to Vinaipur as he has business and family relations here.
Manupal is not at home. His school-going son says his father has gone somewhere and switched off his phone. A neighbour, when asked about the whereabouts of Manupal, grins in reply.
Yashpal and Inderpal, both residents of Vinaipur, are cousins of Manupal. They too laugh when asked about Manupal. They dismiss the mosque incident.
Yashpal asks his son to get a glass of buttermilk from inside the house. “You have visited a Gujjar village. Have buttermilk and write nice nice things. The mosque issue is not worth writing about,” he says.
He turns to Inderpal and says, “Don’t Muslims read namaz in our houses when they are constructing them? Do we ever object?”
Inderpal replies, “Forget homes, don’t they read namaz on roads?”
They decline to talk further, saying the Khekra thana police are making mountain out of a molehill.
Inderpal escorts me to a nearby field where a group of young men are playing cricket. “Look at them, all 16- or 17-year-old boys. The police made them sign bonds that if any violence or untoward incident happens in the village, each of them will have to pay Rs 1 lakh each,” he says. “All they did was show support for Manupal when police came for inquiry. Tell me, is it fair?”
One of the boys shows the bond letter, which has 12 names. Inderpal says they all are Gujjars.
He says police made an equal number of Muslim men sign on similar bonds but he does not have a copy.
The station house officer (SHO) at Khekra police station tells this correspondent over the phone that the police filed an FIR in the case naming Manupal, his friend who accompanied him, and Ali Hassan as accused under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 (intention to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community).
The policeman says that both Hassan and Manupal have been made to sign on bonds of Rs 5 lakh each, but declines to speak further on the matter.
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