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Off camera: how a 'lunatic' sparked communal tension in Jammu

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

The CCTV footage which went viral in J&K shows a tall man, bearded and with a tonsured head, entering the temple in a palpably fanatic rage. In one clip, he kicks the railing, swings around in a swagger and then tears apart the festoons at the entrance. In another, he strides up to a person worshipping the idol, holds him in tight embrace and turns around and kicks the idol. In the third clip, he throws around the temple bell and rushes out waving his arms furiously.

This man, arrested soon after the incident, turned out to be a lunatic from Shiva village of Doda district. Identified as Yasir Alfaz, he had been brought to Jammu for a medical checkup by his brother Tanveer the same day. While they were waiting at a psychiatric clinic at Roopnagar colony, Yasir sneaked into the adjacent Aap Shambo Mandir. By the time he came out of the temple, all hell had broken loose. The devotees at the temple were shouting sacrilege, and the word had spread to the street.

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Yasir's arrest and the confirmation that he was deranged did little to calm the situation, however. A mob burnt two buses of the Police Public School and some private vehicles, and attacked the nearby Janipura police station. They accused Assistant Sub Inspector Rehmatullah of shielding the accused and beating the temple's priest Sanjay Sharma when he went to file a complaint.

Senior civil and police officials visited the site and counselled calm. They promised an honest enquiry into the incident, and assured the doctors would examine the accused and verify whether he was mentally unstable or not. The demand of the people that the ASI be suspended was immediately accepted as well, but the incidents of stone-throwing and arson continued through the night.

VHP's Leela Karan Sharma termed the alleged temple desecration as 'the act of the Muslim community'

The government soon suspended mobile internet services across Jammu to prevent rumour-mongering and the circulation of the CCTV footage of the incident.

The police used mild force to break up the mob. Three policemen, including the SHO, were injured. In a subsequent sweep, the police arrested at least 22 protesters.

Upping the ante

The workers of the Shiv Sena and the Dogra Front also took out a small procession against the sacrilegious act which passed through Rani Park Parade Road, Purani Mandi, Old Hospital Road, Super Bazaar, Raghunath Bazaar, and culminated at Talab Tillo.

State VHP president Leela Karan Sharma termed the alleged desecration as "the act of the Muslim community".

J&K Health Minister Bali Ram Baghat later met with Jammu's civil society, including the VHP president, who demanded the release of the protesters and the withdrawal of cases against them. This too was immediately accepted and all 22 people were unconditionally released. The minister then visited the temple and assured the people there "that the culprit will not be spared".

The accused, Yasir, is still in jail. The police is checking his antecedents, while doctors are examining the state of his mental health.

Meanwhile, right-wing outfits have begun asking why a lunatic only attacked a temple and not some other place. The government has promised to find out if he had a history of attacking temples.

The state chief of Shri Ram Sena Rajiv Mahajan has warned the government that "such incidents would not be tolerated by Hindu outfits" and if such an incident happens in future, the government would face a 2008-like agitation in Jammu.

Investigations suggest the accused person who entered the temple is a lunatic patient: J&K minister

This despite the fact that the government has declared the attacker "a lunatic patient". Making a statement in the assembly, the minister Abdul Haq Khan said: "Preliminary investigations suggest the accused person who entered the temple is a lunatic patient".

Meanwhile, the health minister's meetings with VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders and accepting their conditions for peace in Jammu has run into controversy, with the opposition National Conference terming it as "reflective of the communal bias in the administration".

Senior NC leader Ali Muhammad Sagar said the "lenient view" taken towards the protesters in Jammu shows there are "two sets of laws" in the state. "While a reign of terror has been unleashed by the police in Kashmir valley, with even minor kids being put behind bars, the arsonists associated with Hindu right-wing groups in Jammu have been released," Sagar said.

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First published: 16 June 2016, 10:43 IST