Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati, whose aide was arrested for thrashing the 14-year-old Muslim boy last week, has come out in support of the assault saying that the teen got a “befitting reply” for trespassing.
“I had trained my followers well to give a befitting reply to trespassers from a specific minority community,” Mr Saraswati was quoted byTimes of India as saying in a press conference on Monday. “And all they did on Friday was they were following my instruction.”
The temple, situated in the city of Ghaziabad, which borders the national capital Delhi, is part of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where there have been several recent cases of assaults against Muslims.
Pinky Chaudhary, another aide of the temple head, who according toTOI is booked under several offences of vandalism and assault, said: “We have to strengthen ourselves, and Maharaj Ji (referring to the chief priest) is doing just what is needed.”
Last week, a video of a 14-year-old Muslim boy being thrashed inside the Dasna Devi temple premise went viral on Indian Twitter. In the video, a man was seen asking the teenage boy his name and his family details and enquiring why he had entered the temple premise.
The boy could be heard giving his details and saying that he stepped in just to drink water. Unconvinced, the man continued to thrash him, pinning him down and kicking him, which resulted in several serious injuries for the teen.
Ghaziabad police arrested two people following outrage on social media, including the one who was beating the teen, identified as Shringi Narayan Yadav and the one recording it, named just as Shivanand. Both were identified as the priests of the temple.
The temple’s head priest said there’s a signboard outside the temple that says entry of “people from minority communities” is prohibited and added that the boy must have come in on “the pretext” of drinking water.
He also said that similar instances of trespassing in the temple premise were dealt with an “iron hand” in the past.
The TOI report stated that the head priest could not explain his theory about other motive, but defended his claim saying: “How do you explain him entering the temple for drinking water, when there is a hand pump just outside the temple?”
The head priest did not express remorse for the incident, except that it was filmed.
“This [recording video] was a mistake,” he was quoted by TOI. “They should not have recorded it.”
The boy’s mother told The Independent he is still struggling to recover and has sustained several injuries on his head, hands and legs. Sitara Habib, the mother of the 14-year-old said “this is the first time something like this has happened to him in that area.”
The boy works as a ragpicker and is one of the four children of Ms Habib. She says several politicians and activists have reached out to her to offer help, including the police after the video went viral. However, the boy in his statement on camera after the incident said when he approached a police officer outside the temple he did not help.
This is one of the several such cases reported from Uttar Pradesh where Hindu extremist groups and activists have attacked Muslims, emboldened by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules at the centre, gaining power in the state through its populist Hindutva ideology.
According to Human Rights Watch, Muslims have been disproportionately affected in the state by laws targeting forced conversion and cow slaughter, with 4,000 people arrested in Uttar Pradesh over the latter in 2020 alone.
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