HUBBALLI: The stone-throwing incident at Hubballi that the police blamed on Muslims who gathered for the Friday prayers in defiance of the lockdown was actually triggered by something else.
Overzealous policemen entered the mosque by wearing shoes and assaulted the staff, sparking off tension in the predominantly Muslim area of Aralikatti Oni, off Mantoor Road, according to several residents.
Over a dozen people, including some women, have been arrested over the incident that the media quickly blamed on lockdown-defying Muslims.
Speaking to Vartha Bharati, several residents said the incident was incorrectly portrayed as a result of the police stopping Muslims from offering Jumu’ah prayers at Masjid-e-Hazrat Bilal.
Aslam, the muezzin at the mosque, recounted how it all started: “I was alone in the masjid and giving azaan (the call to prayer). Some policemen just barged into the mosque wearing shoes and started beating me up.”
The policemen then took Aslam to the Town police station, along with the mosque’s chairman (mutavalli) Dawal Nadaf and a local resident named Basha, who both were standing outside the mosque.
Shaista, an eyewitness, confirmed that the police beat up Aslam, Nadaf and Basha before her very own eyes and took them all to the police station.
“I and my sister pleaded with the police not to beat them. But the police were so brazen that they dragged my sister by the hair and took her away,” Shaista said.
Local Congress worker Altaf Halwoor, who said he also witnessed the incident, said the police later warned the three men and dropped them back at about 150 metres from the masjid. By then, an angry mob, including several women, had gathered there. A woman then started abusing the police. A police constable retaliated by brandishing his lathi, Halwoor said.
“Women and some young men started to throw stones at the police,” Halwoor said, adding that many local residents, including women, and police personnel sustained injuries.
Police, have, however, denied the allegation that they beat up anyone at the mosque.
Hubballi Town police inspector M S Patil claimed that when the muezzin was giving the azaan, people started gathering there, violating the lockdown.
“When our officers asked them not to gather there and offer prayers at home, they abused them and started throwing stones,” Patil told Vartha Bharati.
The inspector said that a total of 13 people had been arrested so far over the incident under IPC sections 324, 353, 504, and 332.