July 17, 2023
HARIDWAR – A 63-year-old BJP and RSS leader was manhandled and his car vandalized by a group of Kanwariyas in Haridwar who mistook him to be a Muslim.
“My car accidentally hit a ‘kanwar’ (vessel in which holy water is carried) and those who assaulted me thought I was a Muslim since I was wearing a black cap, have a beard and a burqa-clad woman was accompanying me,” he said.
A widely shared video of the incident, which took place on July 10, purportedly shows the Kanwariyas forcibly pulling the car owner, Pratap Singh, out of the vehicle before overturning the vehicle and hitting it with sticks.
The woman in the car, was a member of the BJP’s local minority wing.
“They let the woman go, but tried to manhandle me,” he said.
A section of the media and social media users claimed that Kanwariyas had assaulted a “Muslim couple”, the Haridwar police claimed there was no communal angle to the incident.
An FIR was registered in connection with the incident under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), and 427 (mischief causing damage) of the IPC at Manglaur police station, and two persons have been arrested.
Another FIR was registered under IPC section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony) against those allegedly trying to spread fake information and causing communal tension.
Singh said he was helping the woman drop her son at a madrasa and was returning when the incident took place.
“On the way, we decided to have lunch and parked my car on the side of the road. When I parked, there was nothing there, but by the time I came back, someone had placed a kanwar right in front of the car,” Singh said.
“When I started the car, it accidentally hit the kanwar, after which a mob gathered and tried to pull me out, calling me a Muslim and asking others to beat me up,” he alleged.
He tried to tell the attackers that he is a Hindu and a member of the BJP and RSS, but they did not listen and vandalised the car.
He said he later went to the local police station and submitted a complaint, after which they arrested two persons.
He said the police dropped him home, but he had lost his phone which was in his car.
Haridwar SSP Ajai Singh said: “A few days ago, local resident Pratap Singh was in his car in Manglaur town, and he accidentally hit a kanwar placed (on the road), causing it to be damaged. Following an altercation, some agitated Kanwariyas vandalised his car and overturned it.”
Singh said he has been an RSS member since 1974, and was a member of the BJP between 1991 and 2002, and again since 2017.
“No one from the RSS or the BJP had called me to enquire about the incident,” he said.
The BJP’s state media in-charge Manveer Chauhan, and the party’s Haridwar district president Sandeep Goyal said they did not know of any incident involving an altercation between Kanwariyas and any member of the BJP.