UP Police arrests Faisal Khan, an activist working for communal harmony

Faisal Khan was arrested for offering namaz at a Hindu temple. He is part of an organisation promoting communal harmony and peace.

The Uttar Pradesh Police sent Faisal Khan to 14-day judicial custody for offering namaz in a temple compound after an interfaith peace and solidarity pilgrimage. He is a member of Khudai Khidmatgar, an organisation working towards communal harmony, and is also a Gandhian activist. Alongside Khan, FIRs were also registered on November 1st against Chand Mohammad, Aalok Ratan and Nilesh Gupta.

The organisation opposed all allegations, stating that they focus on “communal harmony, and work to “counter any forms of religious extremism in this society” and that “many Hindu religious institutions have appreciated and acknowledged the work of Faisal khan for his uncompromised work for peace and brotherhood.”

The Incident and Faisal Khan’s Arrest

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Faisal Khan, offering namaz alongside temple authorities | Courtesy the Quint

On October 29th, Faisal Khan had offered namaz in Nand Baba temple compounds in Barsana. He returned to Delhi on the same night, and on November 2nd, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested him, charging him under IPC section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 295 (defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 505 (public mischief). 

Kanha Goswami, a temple priest who registered the FIR stated, “Faisal Khan and Chand Mohammad offered namaz within the temple premises without the permission of the priests and hurt the sentiments of the Hindus. Their associates clicked their photos and made them viral on social media. They might be receiving foreign funding and it might be an attempt to create communal tension in the region.” He also mentioned that Khan had offered prayers to Hindu Gods and that if the organisation had filmed the same, he wouldn’t have filed the FIR.

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The visit was part of a Parikrama yatra to spread religious harmony | via Facebook

Contrarily, spokesperson Khudai Khidmatgar Pawan Yadav stated that Khan did seek permission from those present at the temple. According to him the temple priest and others told Khan, “You are already in the home of God so why do you need to go anywhere else?” 

Videos of Khan’s interactions with the priests and attendants also show a friendly environment. Towards the end, the Hindu priest also offers Khan prasad in a small leaf bowl and invites them to stay for a meal. In the videos, Faisal Khan states:

“We are here for generating goodwill. There is everything in the world, what is missing is love and in the Brij region I have felt copious amounts of love… Krishna belongs to all, his love belongs to the mankind…”

A priest said that they will “purify” the temple after the incident by cleaning it with water from Ganga and Yamuna. Sushil Goswami also told PTI that they will also conduct a yajna  and vedic hymns as part of the “purification” process.

Responses to the Incident

Across the country, people have condemned Faisal Khan’s arrest, and many organisations issued statements of solidarity and demanding his release. Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy stated:

“Faisal Khan, the founder convenor of the Khudai Khitmatgar and his friends were on a parikrama, visiting various temples and mosques, interacting with people of all communities and building bridges in an effort to heal a society that is being increasingly torn apart by polarising extremist religious and political forces.

Faisal Khan has only mirrored the best traditions of this country, where temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and viharas are often open for interfaith dialogue and prayer.

Our country is where recently the Udupi Krishna Mutt hosted an iftar for Muslims and appealed for communal harmony. Where a Gurudwara offered space for namaz to Muslims caught in heavy rain on Bakri Idd. Where Muslims let Sikhs use the historic Lal Masjid mosque for preparing, serving langar. Where a church hosted Namaz. Where a mosque organised a Hindu wedding with all rituals and served a vegetarian feast.

This is the India that we know, that we have grown up in. The ‘New India’ it would seem, is the very antithesis of all that India has stood for over the ages.”

Men held for chanting Hanuman Chalisa | Courtesy Democratic Accent

In response to Faisal Khan, four men also read the Hanuman Chalisa at an Eidgah in Mathura. Unlike the case against Faisal Khan and associates, no criminal complaint was filed by the mosque clerics. Idgah cleric Nek Mohammad stated, “What is the big deal if they read some religious book in the mosque.” Police arrested the four under Section 151 of CrPC stating that they received information that “some people had used a saffron-colored spray paint on the gates of mosques.” All four men were also released on bail by a Goverdhan magistrate on a surety of Rs 2 lakh each. 

Read More: Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims Overrepresented in Prisons: NCRB Data

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