Two days after a group of madrasa students in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao alleged that they were assaulted by members of right-wing group for refusing to shout the "Jai Shri Ram" slogan, police today cited CCTV footage to claim that the people named by the victims weren't even present at the scene when the incident occurred.
"According to CCTV footage and probe, those named in the First Information Report weren't there at the spot. The madrasa students had an argument with one of four people belonging to other group, which led to a clash," news agency ANI quoted the Unnao police as saying. Even the claim that they were being forced to shout the religious slogan is yet to be verified, they added.
The madrasa students, all between 10 and 15 years of age, claimed that they were playing cricket on a local ground when they were attacked by four older boys. "The four ordered them to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. When our boys refused, they snatched the cricket bats and stumps and began assaulting the children with them. The kids ran for their lives but the assailants kept throwing stones at them," Naeem Isbahi, the complainant in the case, told NDTV.
Mr Isbahi said that a bicycle was damaged in the incident, and one of the students suffered a head injury. "They also snatched cash from the boys. This is religious fanaticism. I don't know where they are from, but at least one of the boys seemed to be from the Bajrang Dal," he added.
Police said one person has been arrested in this connection, and a case of assault registered. Another suspect was identified as Aditya Shukla, who identifies himself as a BJP worker on his Facebook page. The party's local unit, however, is yet to confirm the claim.
The madrasa students' version of events has been contested by activists belonging to alleged right-wing groups, who maintain that the incident was nothing more than a dispute over who would play on the ground. They have warned the police of widespread protests unless the arrested person is released immediately.
This is only the latest in a series of incidents where members of the Muslim community were allegedly targeted by people demanding that they shout the "Jai Shri Ram" slogan. Earlier this month, an autorickshaw driver in Kanpur claimed that a group of people locked him up in a washroom for refusing to comply. The next day, four men forced their way into a medical shop in Assam's Barpeta district and thrashed two of its Muslim employees.