Muslim teen from Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain, who was falsely framed for spitting on a Hindu procession last year got bail as the complainant and the witness denied police claims in front of the court.
The allegation behind the case was woven around the rumours that Muslims had spat on “Mahakal Yatra”, a Hindu rally which took place on July 17, 2023, from the roof of their homes.
As the rumours spread, a group of Hindu youth accused three teenagers, including two minors of deliberately spitting on the procession.
Two of the accused and arrested were sons of Ashraf Hussain Mansoori (43) – a resident of Chandrashekar Azad lane in Tanki Chowk – aged 18 and 15, and the third was their friend, also 15.
They were blamed as a video went viral, in which some people could be seen standing on the roof watching the rally pass by. However, there was nothing in the video which proves they were spitting on the members of the procession.
As soon as their names came out, Hindus in the locality started abusing Mansoori’s family and other Muslims. An enraged mob of Hindu extremists stormed Kharakua police station demanding action.
The arrest, demolition and their aftermath
The police filed an FIR and arrested three of them under sections; 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), 153-A (offence committed in a place of worship), 296 (disturbing religious assembly), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The arrest was made on the complaint of Sawan Lot (28), a “devotee” from Indore who took part in the rally.
A day after the arrest, on 19 July 2023, Ashraf Hussain Mansoori received a phone call from the police in the morning. The police officer on the other end told Mansoori that his house would be demolished as his son had committed a crime, Article 14 reported.
After a while, a notice addressing Mansoori’s dead mother Shahjan Bee was served to his family by Ujjain municipal officials.
The notice sought to bulldoze a three-storey building owned by Mansoori.
“This is to inform you that your dangerous construction has not been razed so far… As per section 436 of the Madhya Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1961, you are being notified for the last time… you must remove the dangerous building or it will be removed by the administration… and you will be liable to pay for the labour charges of the demolition,” the notification backdated to 15 July read.
Within half an hour, under police escort, accompanied by the beats of drums and speakers playing Hindu devotional songs, the building was razed to the ground.
Later, on September 19, two minors involved in the case were granted bail by Indore High Court. The decision was pronounced citing the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 after the Juvenile court had earlier rejected the bail applications twice.
After a month, on 28 October, Sawan Lot, the complainant produced a written statement to Ujjain’s first-class judicial magistrate Priyanka Solanki saying he was taken to the station by police after clashes broke out around 7 pm on the day of “Mahakal Yatra” in Ujjain.
According to the statement he found out someone had spat on the rally only after reaching the police station. He has not seen anyone doing it, but when the police asked him to sign on some papers, he did without asking the reason, an Article 14 report said.
Similarly, after two weeks, on 11 November 2023, the witness Ajay Khatri presented his statement refuting the claims of police. Khatri said that the police after taking his name and signature on some papers, had written on them things he didn’t know of.
He further stated that he was not present at the site to witness the alleged incident when it happened.
As both the complainant and the witness turned hostile, the police could not establish its claims before the court.
The alleged video mentioned in the FIR was not produced, and a large portion of the report was found to be in contradiction with the statements of Lot and Khatri.
After spending 151 days behind bars, the single-judge bench of Justice Anil Verma in the Madhya Pradesh High Court granted bail to Adnan Mansoori, Ashraf’s 18-year-old son, on 15 December 2023.
Bulldozer justice and aggressive celebration
At the time of the arrest and demolition, a spirit of aggressive celebration permeated the air as many prominent media houses in the country broadcasted the event as a moment of rightful revenge.
Many news reports contained a closure as if a kind of punitive justice was served through the demolition.
“Bulldozers roll down Ujjain Street after 3 men spit on Holy Mahakal Yatra,” a headline by India Today read.
Aman Chopra, a news anchor at News 18 presented the footage of the bulldozers tearing down the building which hosted three families, without a slight trace of resentment but with the joy of accomplishment.
He reaffirmed the faith of the viewers in “bulldozer justice” as he said:
“We know when the bulldozer arrives; the dwellers of this building might have done something wrong”.
He did not hesitate to praise the festivity with which the destruction was carried out.
“We have seen bulldozers earlier, but it is different this time. There are drums and DJs to accompany”.
In a similar tone, Ashish Agarwal, spokesperson of the Madhya Pradesh BJP, responded to the incident.
“Those who insult Lord Shiva will have to be prepared for a Shiv tandava (dance of destruction) as well. This is Shivraj Chouhan’s government where there is not only action taken against the accused but the action is so strict that it breaks their willpower.”
The ordeal has left the teenagers and their families in deep distress. The Mansooris have been living in a rented home for the last five months. They are not in a position to rebuild the home as it might require a huge sum of money and several permissions.
They managed to reopen the shop, which was destroyed by the administration along with the building, after minimal repairs. Currently, they earn their livelihood by running the shop in whatever capacity possible.