The Uttar Pradesh Police on Monday arrested Faisal Khan, a member of an organisation working towards communal harmony, for offering prayers at a temple in Mathura on October 29, reported The Telegraph. Khan was sent to 14-day judicial custody on Tuesday, ANI reported.
Khan, who was arrested from Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area, is the national convenor of the Khudai Khidmatgar, founded by freedom fighter Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan – popularly known as Frontier Gandhi.
The Uttar Pradesh Police have arrested Khan on charges under section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion), and 505 (public mischief). However, the group said in a statement that the intention of the Gandhian activist was to advocate communal harmony during a five-day pilgrimage between October 24 and October 29.
On October 29, Khan had visited the temple of Nand Baba in Mathura to pay obeisance when it was time for his afternoon prayers, the organisation said. He was accompanied by his associates, Chand Mohammad, Nilesh Gupta and Sagar Ratna.
“The people who were there in the temple allowed him to offer prayers in the temple compound itself by saying that you are already in the home of God so why you need to go anywhere else,” the statement said. “Hearing it Faisal Khan completed his prayers. After it he and other members stayed in the Temple for some more time and they had their lunch in the same temple.”
After the trip when Faisal returned to Delhi, he was made aware of a complaint against him for offering prayers. The organisation said certain sections of the media were running false stories against the activist.
A priest at the temple, Kanha Goswami, filed the complaint against Khan. He said that Khan met him after offering namaz. “When I reacted against his action, he also offered prayers before the Hindu gods and recited aloud many couplets from the Ramayan and other Hindu scriptures,” he told The Telegraph. “I didn’t like them making viral videos of the namaz. Had they also posted the videos of their prayers before the Hindu gods, I wouldn’t have registered a complaint.”
Goswami said that the four told him they were on a tour, and wanted to perform parikarma (circumambulation) of the temple. “Faisal Khan has knowledge of Sanatan Dharm,” the priest told The New Indian Express. He said that Khan talked about Ramayan and Ramcharitmanas, and the priest offered them prasad, after which they left. “But I am not aware when they came back and offered namaz at the back side of the shrine,” he told the newspaper.
Goswami lodged a complaint with the Barsana police when the images of Khan and Mohammad performing prayers was widely shared on social media. The complaint said their act had offended Hindu sentiments. It called for an inquiry into the episode and if it involved foreign funding by any Muslim organisation.
The temple will be “purified” after the incident, said a priest. “The sanctity of the temple will be revived by cleaning it with the water from the holy Ganga and Yamuna,” Sushil Goshwami told PTI. He added that a yajna along with chanting of vedic hymns will also be carried out.
“We strongly oppose all the allegations which are put on Faisal Khan, his associates Chand Mohd., Nilesh Gupta and Sagar Ratna,” the organisation said in its statement. “Khudai Khidmatgar believe in Peace, Love and Communal Harmony. Faisal Khan as an individual is working from last three decades on these issues and the objective of Khudai Khidmatgar is also the same. We focus to counter the any forms of religious extremism in this society.”
The organisation also apologised if any person or organisation felt that their sentiments were hurt as it was not their intention to do so. The group shared a video of Faisal speaking to people in the temple.
Mathura Superintendent of Police Gaurav Arora said the case was handed over to the Uttar Pradesh intelligence department, and a search was on to arrest the other three, according to The Telegraph. State minister Shrikant Sharma claimed the episode was an attempt to create a conflict between communities, and added that the accused will not be spared.