One month after being publicly flogged during Navratri celebrations, a Muslim man in Kheda vows that he will never attend or celebrate any Hindu festival again.
What happened with Mohammad Sarif and 4 other Muslim men on October 4?
Mohammad Sarif, 48, was sitting inside an empty two-bedroom house which is around 25 kilometers from his home in Undhela village in Gujarat’s Kheda district when he gave his statement to the media, “I was flogged in public and the neighbors I grew up with watched and seemed to enjoy it like it was some entertainment programme” Sarif said.
Sarif along with four other Muslim men was allegedly tied to a pole and beaten with sticks on October 4 by Gujarat police officers dressed in civil clothes. The incident, which happened in Kheda’s Undhela village, was recorded on camera and was posted online. A large group of people can be seen chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai in this 75 second video. As of now, no action is being taken on the officers involved.
The officers involved in the incident
The men in civil clothes were identified as police officers from Kheda district’s Local Crime Branch Unit soon after the video went viral. Kheda SP Ashish Bhatia said that the officers involved in the matter will face disciplinary action. “The situation is being looked into, I have ordered an investigation. Depending on the seriousness of the charges, we will take disciplinary action,” Bhatia said to television news channels, on October 7.
The five men were allegedly beaten up by police officers, a day after allegations of stone pelting at a garba event during Navratri in Undhela village surfaced. Seven people, including a policeman, were hurt in the following incident.
Statements of Mohammad Sarif
“I still remember the faces of my friends and neighbors as the crowd was applauding the police. Owner of a cell store Ramesh, Dileep, Shailesh, Bharat and his son Umesh. All of them were present in the crowd but none helped us. When the policemen were humiliating us in public, they were chanting Jai Shri Ram and cheered” said Sarif.
Following the public flogging, the Kheda district police detained Sarif after receiving a complaint from the local sarpanch, Indravadan Manibhai Patel. As per the FIR, 43 people, including Sarif, were accused of disrupting Navratri celebrations in Undhela.
According to the bail documents, Sarif and the other accused were granted bail by the Nadiad Sessions Court keeping in mind a few conditions like fine of Rs 15,000 each and a prohibition on entering the Matar taluka in Undhela village, till March 2023. On October 19, 15 days after the incident, Sarif was granted bail. Sarif’s family, including wife and children, still live in Undhela.
Mohammad Sarif’s house vandalized
After the incident, Sarif’s eldest son said that he spent the night in police custody, before being released the next morning.
While trying to hold back his tears Sarif said “Some individuals vandalized my home and threatened my family after the flogging. The police came and detained my eldest son, he’s studying in college. My youngest son, a student in class 10, is so petrified that the mere thought of using the school washroom makes him shiver.”
Sarif alleged that some villagers broke his television and other essentials in his home, the day after the public flogging, while his wife and children witnessed everything in fear and a sense of hopelessness.
Won’t be attending any Hindu festivals from now on says Sarif
Undhela has been home to Mohammad Sarif’s family for generations; his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather have all lived there. Undhela is the only home Sarif has ever known; his own three sons were born there. “I have spent my entire school life in Undhela. “I remember attending garba celebrations as a child with my friends,” Mohammad Sarif said.
“We have often assisted everyone in building tents for the garba celebrations. During Navratri, we have also provided prasad and helped with other preparations” Sarif said. He continued by saying that his family will never go to a garba event from now onwards. “We were unable to join the celebrations this year. I’m not sure about how the police got my name. But from now on, no one in my family would ever take part in Hindu festivals,” Sarif added.
Public image tarnished after flogging
Sarif stated that it doesn’t matter if he attended or skipped the garba festivities on the evening of October 3. He claimed, “I wasn’t there,” and continued, “Even if I had been there and took part in the violence, where is the rule of law?
“Those videos are available on public domain. My own family learned about the incident from social media. Do you think it’s easy to forget an embarrassing incident like this? How will I walk in my neighborhood streets with the same pride and confidence as I used to? Can you take those videos down from the internet? Mohammad Sarif asked the reporters who were questioning him.
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