Police ask Muslim men accused of rioting to furnish Hindu guarantors

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Over 150 Muslim men who were arrested for their alleged role in a rioting incident that occurred in Akola city in north-central Indian state of Maharashtra in May this year have a unique dilemma before them. On securing bail from the magistrate court, the Akola city police have allegedly asked the individuals to furnish guarantors from the Hindu community as surety.

This demand, both unconstitutional and illegal and criticised by the Bombay High Court on several instances in the past, is apparently a common practice in Akola.

M Badar, a lawyer associated with the human rights organisation the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) who is representing many of those arrested in the case, told the media that as soon as the Muslim men were granted bail by the magistrate court, they were all lined up before the local crime branch. “Here, depending upon their criminal antecedents, the police-initiated Chapter Proceedings or preventive action as prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure,” he said.

“Each of the accused persons was then told to get individuals belonging to the Hindu community to vouch for them as a surety before the police,” Badar said. These sureties, Badar added, would cost these individuals anything between Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000, something that most accused persons can’t afford. The police have, however, not given their demand in writing – making it difficult for the lawyers to immediately move the court, he said.

“Whether affordable or not, this demand of furnishing surety from a certain community is an absurd act,” Badar pointed out, adding that high court orders have already termed such a police action as unconstitutional and illegal.

On May 13, following an Instagram post by one Karan Sahu, a leader of the radical right-wing group in Akola ‘Chhatrapati Sena’, a tense situation developed in the city. Sahu, who has a massive following on all social media platforms, uploaded a post on Instagram deriding the Muslim community and Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). In no time, the post garnered thousands of likes and his followers began sharing it on their handles too. By late evening, the Instagram post had reached many in the Muslim community and the community leaders had decided to approach the nearby Ramdaspeth police station.

In all, the police registered six FIRs in two different police stations in Akola city. While the FIRs essentially carry sections of rioting and destruction to public property, sections of murder have also been added following the death of one youth. The youth, identified as Vilas Gaikwad, was allegedly killed after a Hindu mob had mistaken him for a Muslim man. One of the eyewitnesses told the media that Gaikwad was driving an auto that had “KGN” inscribed on it. KGN stands for Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, and referees to revered Islamic scholar, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

While around 150 Muslim men were arrested, less than 10 persons from the Hindu community have been arrested for their alleged role in the rioting incident.

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Disclaimer: Police ask Muslim men accused of rioting to furnish Hindu guarantors - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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