Ahmedabad: Sufi cleric, Imam Mehdi Hasan was slapped and pushed to the ground by a member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Thasra court campus in Kheda district on Wednesday. The imam was arrested from his home in Rustampura area in Thasra taluka on Tuesday for his controversial remark on the Hindu ‘Garba’ festival, which he reportedly referred to as “demonic” and asked Muslim youths to refrain from participating in the “un-Islamic festival”.
According to local sources, about 200-250 workers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) held demonstrations outside the court against him.
The incident took place on a day when Gujarat’s Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel issued a statement that there was no question of banning Muslims from entering garba venues as demanded by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.
It was after this demand that Imam Hasan speaking to Gujarat daily Sandesh, termed the nine-day ‘Garba’ festivities “demonic” and criticised commercialisation of the event. His statement provoked a police complaint and his subsequent arrest on Tuesday.
The whole controversy started early this month, when a BJP legislator in Madhya Pradesh, called for a ban on Muslims from entry to the yearly ‘Garba’ celebrations, or the Gujarati dance festival to be held in several northern states in October.
Incidentally, Imam Hasan was the same cleric, who in 2011 had offered a Muslim skullcap to the then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, which the latter had refused to wear it.
Imam sent to Judicial custody
Police have arrested Rakesh Patel, the VHP worker, who slapped the Imam. The Imam was arrested under IPS 295C under which he could be jailed for three years. Principal Civil Judge P. V. Bhatt sent the Imam to 14 days’ judicial custody as he refused to hire a counsel to defend himself and also refused to seek bail.