Ludhiana police take note of video posted by Swarajya journalist, promise action.
A resident of Punjab has alleged that a group of men associated with a dargah attacked him for his refusal to convert to Islam.
This has come at a time when the anti-terrorism squad of Uttar Pradesh and other investigating agencies are taking the lid off various Islamic conversion rackets operating in north India in the guise of welfare work.
On Sunday (3 October), the resident — Bhupendra Shukla — recorded his video statement about the alleged conversion attempt and a subsequent attack on his shop. He circulated it among his known people, hoping it would reach 'Hindu groups'.
The video indeed reached them through social media. Many activists met Shukla the same week, he says.
In the video (can be watched here), Shukla says that a group of Muslim men visited his house and asked the family to accept Islam in lieu of money. They offered Rs 5 lakh in return. Shukla turned down their offer and angrily asked them to leave. The group returned a day later and attacked his shop, vandalising it and looting valuables.
Shukla further says he gave a complaint to the concerned police station, but the police did not act on it. He says that he had identified the key man and shared his name and other information with the police.
This correspondent learnt about Shukla through an activist in Uttar Pradesh and contacted him on 10 October. He narrated his story over the phone.
Shukla hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda district. For the past six years, he has been living in Ludhiana district of Punjab, where he shifted for a better income. He lives in Neechi Mangli area with his widowed mother, wife and two children, and a younger brother and sister, both unmarried.
Shukla works as a security guard and manages a 'chai-beedi' shop, that is largely run by his sister and mother.
He says he has never faced sectarian problem in Ludhiana in the past. For six months, however, a group of Muslim men living in Sherpur Colony have been visiting migrant Hindu families in Neechi Mangli. The group coaxes them to accept Islam.
“They offer money in return. They say that everyone is accepting Islam and so should we,” Shukla told this correspondent.
He said that the group tells Hindu families that they have no support system. Once they enter the fold of Islam and get others to do the same, they would be far stronger.
“But we don’t want to leave our dharma. Tell us Madam ji, how can be change the dharma we are born in,” said Shukla.
He says he stands by “every word” he said in his now viral video. He recorded it a day after the group attacked his shop.
The group had first entered his house on Thursday (30 September). They were eight men in total. They left when Shukla, angrily, asked them to leave. Friday passed without consequences. On Saturday, however, the group returned, this time prepared for violence.
“They threw our stuff on the ground. They took away the beedi and matchboxes from the shop that amounted to at least 10,000 rupees. They also took Rs 5,000 cash that was kept inside. When I tried to record their video, they snatched my phone and took away that as well,” said Shukla.
He says he identifies only one of them — “Sirtaj Ali”. Ali is nephew of caretaker of a dargah popularly known as Mitti Wale Baba, says Shukla.
He says it was Ali who led the group that came to convince him to accept Islam. It was also Ali who led the group that attacked him. “I do not recognise others as they all were wearing skull caps and sported long beards,” he says.
Shukla says he visited Ishwar Colony Police Station in Dhandari Kalan the next day, that is, on Sunday (3 October). The police took his verbal complaint, told him his complaint number was ‘e613’ and sent him away.
Worried that the police did not intend to catch the identified accused, he recorded his video statement the same evening and circulated it.
This correspondent contacted Ishwar Colony Police Station on 10 October. A man who said he was the Munshi, confirmed that a complaint with this number was noted down by him the previous Sunday.
The Munshi said that it had not been converted into a first information report (FIR) as preliminary investigation was pending. He said that the complaint was about the attack on Shukla’s shop but had no mention of religious conversion.
The Munshi shared the contact number of investigating officer, Havaldar Gurmeet Singh. This correspondent called up the number several times, but all calls went unanswered.
On Sunday (10 October) when this correspondent uploaded Shukla’s video on Twitter, the official handle of Commissioner of Police, Ludhiana (@Ludhiana_Police) responded that the concerned police station have contacted the person in the video and “this matter will be resolved ASAP”.
@swati_gs concerned police station has been informed, they had contacted the person in video and this matter will be resolved ASAP.
— Commissioner of Police Ludhiana. (@Ludhiana_Police) October 10, 2021
Today (11 October), Shukla told this correspondent that he had received a call from the thana.
“A lady officer called up. She asked why I had taken the matter to social media. I replied that I would take the matter to the highest authorities. She told me to calm down and said that the police would cooperate with him,” said Shukla.
He added that the lady officer told him that the man he has complained against would be caught soon and, as soon as he is brought to the police station, Shukla would be asked to join the questioning as well.
”Madam ji, I am ready to do whatever it takes to see that the man and his group are made to pay for what they are doing to Hindus,” said Shukla.
UP police’s crackdown on Islamic conversion groups began in June with the arrests of Mohammed Umar Gautam and Mohammed Jehangir, who run ‘Islamic Dawah Centre’ in New Delhi’s Jamia Nagar.
The word Dawah (often spelled as Da’wah) literally means “invitation” and refers to the act of inviting or calling people to convert to Islam.
UP’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has accused the two of receiving crores of rupees from Islamic trusts abroad in the name of welfare work to carry out religious conversions. As per UP ATS, when they probed the bank accounts of Islamic Dawah Centre, an accounted Rs 57 crore was found.
Last month, the UP ATS made a big breakthrough. They arrested Kalim Siddiqui, who is believed to be the ‘kingpin’ of conversion rackets in north India.
Around the same time as Siddiqui’s arrest, a video of a serving Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in UP, Mohammed Iftikharuddin, emerged on social media. The senior IAS officer, who is currently serving as Chairman of Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, is seen sitting with a group of Muslim men, discussing strategies for conversion to Islam.
Punjab figures prominently in this discussion, as a Dai (often spelled as Da’i and refers to someone who engages in Da’wah) narrates a conversion story from the state.
He tells the group, of which Iftikharuddin is a part, that a resident of Punjab converted to Islam even without his efforts. He says the man saw his sister’s cremation and was horrified to see that the fire burnt all her clothes on the pyre, exposing her naked body to those assembled at the spot. He decided to go for burials in future “in order to save his daughters from the shame”.
In a public talk, Kalim Siddiqui narrated the story of a Punjab woman’s conversion to Islam only two days before her death (can be watch here).
He said that a Sikh woman — a resident of Punjab — went to a Pir baba to seek remedy for a body ailment that had been bothering her for several years. The Pir asked her, if she couldn’t stand a slight fever, how she would stand “dojakh ki aag” (hellfire). The woman asked the Pir for a solution. The Pir connected him to Kalim Siddiqui, who proposed her to accept Islam to save herself from hellfire after death.
As per Siddiqui, she agreed and read the Kalma (Islamic vow in Arabic which states that Allah is the only true God and Mohammed is his only true messenger) over the phone. Siddiqui made sure that when she died two days later, she was buried as per Sharia and not cremated.
The UP ATS has said in its various press releases that Dawah groups, in order to convert people to Islam, use various unlawful tactics including instilling fear of hellfire in their hearts, bribing them with money or land, and threatening them with dire consequences if they don’t convert.