In an era where emotions can be ignited with the strike of a matchstick, a residential colony in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh recently bore witness to a striking instance where misinformation and prejudice threatened to disrupt communal peace.
When a young boy named Mohammed Danish, who is mentally challenged, returned home, a bold proclamation of “Jai Bholenath” was inked prominently on his forehead.
Many hastily interpreted the marking as a calculated affront from someone within the Hindu community.
Soon, the atmosphere in his community shifted palpably, and anger and indignation surged. Such was the alarm that a crowd soon gathered, voicing their dissent and even attempting to block a bustling road in spontaneous protest.
The scene had all the makings of a brewing communal storm.
However, what unfolded next is both a testament to the potential dangers of snap judgments and rumours. Danish revealed a surprising twist: the inscription was not the handiwork of an outsider or Hindu, but was done by his very own cousin, Mohammed Shadab.
When Danish’s mother confronted Shadab, the latter dismissed the incident, calling it merely a prank. Watch the statement of Danish’s mother here.
Local law enforcement, already on their toes in light of the incident's initial narrative, breathed a sigh of relief. The revelation that the drama was confined within the same religious community deftly defused tensions that otherwise could have escalated into communal violence.
Moreover, the police further clarified that the marking was drawn using a permanent marker and not etched with a knife as was initially feared by the boy's family.
The incident took place five days ago, and the markings have begun to fade. Danish’s family has chosen to not to pursue formal police action, Bareilly police informed through its official X (formerly Twitter) account yesterday (4 September).
The incident has been reported from Shahbad colony that falls under the jurisdiction of Premnagar police station in Bareilly. Shadab reportedly works in electricity department of the state government.
Though dating back five days, the incident made a buzz on social media yesterday, albeit with debunked claims. Several X accounts shared videos of the boy and the marking on his forehead, pinning blame on “Sanatanis” (followers of Sanatana Dharma) and labelling them as “Bhagwa atanki” (a term referencing Hindu activists).
Even in the face of official clarifications, many of these posts remain, continuing to fuel misguided ire and sow division.
The tale serves as a potent reminder of the perils of our digital age and communal prejudices where false stories are believed instantly, and a joke, though misplaced, can threaten peace.
Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.
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