A muezzin in Hooghly’s Chinsurah said he was slapped by an unidentified youth for refusing to chant “Jai Shri Ram” in the early hours of Wednesday.
Mohammed Sufiuddin, 54, a resident of Chakbazar in Chinsurah, said that around 3.45am on Wednesday, he was riding a bicycle to the mosque from his home when three motorcycle-borne youths accosted him near the Chakbazar More and asked him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
“I told them about my religious identity and requested them not to force me to chant the slogan. At this, one of the youths slapped me hard and I fell down with my cycle. As I cried in pain, the youths escaped from the scene. There was no one around as it was too early in the morning,” said Sufiuddin.
“Jai Shri Ram” has been converted into a war cry by the BJP since the 2019 general election.
Later in the day, Sufiuddin, who has been working as a muezzin at the local mosque for the past six years, lodged a complaint at Chinsurah police station against three unidentified persons.
“We have received the complaint and started a probe,” said Gaurav Sharma, the police commissioner of Chandernagore.
BJP leaders said the party would never force anyone to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
“Our party has never forced anyone to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. I don’t know whether the offenders belong to our party. If anyone, even if they are from our party, is accused of harassing the person, I will request the police to take action against them,” said Gautam Chatterjee, the BJP president in Hooghly.
Sufiuddin said that ever since the BJP won 18 seats in Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, there had been a tendency to harass people like him by those associated with the party.
“This is not the first such instance with me. Shortly after the 2019 poll result was declared, a youth, who was part of a bigger group, had said, ‘Kaka, Jai Shri Ram bolo’ (Uncle, chant Jai Shri Ram). But before I could reply to the youth, one of his friends rebuked him and asked him not to force me to chant Jai Shri Ram,” Sufiuddin said.
Banking on its Lok Sabha election performance, the BJP hopes to win a good number of the 18 Assembly seats in a district that used to be a Trinamul bastion. The Trinamul had won 16 Assembly seats in the 2016 election but trailed in eight in the Lok Sabha polls.
Sufiuddin said he had never thought that he could be slapped for his religious identity in Chinsurah town, where he has been living for years.
“They only slapped me once but I lodged a complaint with the police to teach them a lesson. If the police take steps, they will not dare to do such things in future. It is not the culture of our area where I have been living since my childhood,” said Sufiuddin.
Trinamul leaders in Hooghly accused the BJP of trying to disturb communal harmony in Chinsurah.
“The attack on Sufiuddin shows BJP’s attempt to damage our culture and harmony. We strongly condemn the incident,” said Tapan Dasgupta, a Trinamul leader and state agriculture marketing minister.
In July 2019, five men had been branded cattle rustlers and beaten up after they declined to chant “Jai Shri Ram” in North Dinajpur.