About twenty Muslim families left their village in western Rajasthan following alleged threats from Hindu upper caste villagers, in a string of events starting with the murder of a folk singer, police said on Friday, reports Hindustan Times.
The 200-odd Muslim people, including women and children, are living under police protection in homes of their relatives at Balad, about 20 km from their village Dantal in Jaisalmer district, the newspaper said.
The mass exodus is the latest in a series of incidents targeting the minority community in the BJP-ruled state, where a cattle trader from Haryana, Pehlu Khan, was lynched in April by a cow protection vigilante group.
Trouble at the Jaisalmer village began during a Navratri function in a village temple on September 27, where folk musician Amad Khan performed religious songs, a tradition in Dantal, about 700 km from state capital Japiur, the report said.
Khan, 45, belongs to a folk artist community known as Langa Maganiyaar.
“Police said a village faith healer, Ramesh Suthar, asked Khan to sing a particular raga so that the spirit of the temple goddess enters his body, one of the so-called miracles traditional occultists claim they can perform,” the newspaper reported.
Police said Suthar used to prescribe cures to various problems of the local people, attributing the solutions to the spirit of the goddess, the report added.
Suthar, however, blamed Khan’s allegedly poor singing as a reason for the goddess abandoning him on that day, police said.
“He (Suthar) broke Khan’s musical instruments and also assaulted him,” a local police officer was quoted as saying.
The same night, Suthar with two others allegedly kidnapped Khan from his home, Khan’s younger brother Suge Khan told the newspaper. “Later, my brother’s body was thrown outside the house.”
The next day, elders of a dominant Hindu community allegedly threatened Khan’s family members against lodging a complaint with police, the report said.
“We got scared and buried his body quietly,” Suge Khan told HT.
They, however, mustered courage a few days later when their relatives from nearby villages came and assured them of “all help”, the report said.
Suge Khan said after the complaint was lodged, Ramesh Suthar and other upper caste villagers ordered the Muslims to leave the village, the report said.
“They threatened us that if we did not leave the village they will kill us. After that about 20 families consisting around 200 members have left the village and took shelter at nearby Balad village in our relative’s house,” Suge Khan was quoted as saying.
Dantal village sarpanch Khet Singh refuted the allegations of threat, saying Adam Khan died due to cardiac arrest, the report said.
Villagers only suggested to his family that since it was a natural death do should not take the matter to police, he said, adding when the people refused to accompany Khan’s family to register the case, the Muslims left in anger, the report added.
“Along with sub-divisional officer, I met them yesterday and tried to convince them (to return)…some anti-social elements are trying to disturb the harmony.”
However, police said prima facie Khan died due to physical assault, the report said.
Jaisalmer superintendent of police SP Gaurav Yadav said they were trying to convince the Muslims to return, the report said.
“We have assured them of protection if they want to return…We have also spoken to village elders and told them that cases would be lodged if they threaten the Muslims,” Yadav was quoted as saying.
“Police arrested Ramesh Suthar on October 4 but two of his accomplices are absconding, The body of Khan was exhumed and an autopsy conducted, police added.
“Police, however, said the Muslims have only lodged a murder complaint but refrained from officially accusing anyone of threat and intimidation,” the report said