A video showing a ‘reporter’ of a Facebook page is trying to coerce an Imam of a Masjid say ‘Vande Mataram’ (the national song of India) and Bharat Mata ki Jai on camera has gone viral on social media with many showing anger against the ‘reporter’ who is “habitual” of asking people to raise provocative slogans. The Imam, Maulvi Mursaleen has left his job as Imam of the mosque and returned to his home.
The incident took place on August 15, the day India celebrated its 75th Independence Day. Rohit Sharma, the ‘reporter’ of a YouTube channel ‘Hindustan 9’ visited a Muslim neighburhood in Bapoli village of Panipat district in Haryana. Hours later, he uploaded the video on the channel’s social media pages with a title in Hindi saying: “Panipat ke Bapoli mein Masjid mein Jhanda Lagane Gaye Yuwa To Molvi Kia Bole” or In Bapoli, Panipat, when the youth went to put the flag in the mosque, what did the Maulvi say?
The video shows the ‘reporter’ shoving the mic of the channel into the face of the Imam of a mosque and asks him: “Why isn’t he chanting ‘Vande Mataram’ (literally, “I Salute You, Mother”)… Bharat Mata ki Jai (Long Live Mother India).” The Imam refuses and turns his face away but the ‘reporter’ persists. The Imam responds that he does not have an answer to his questions and that it is a mosque and reciting Vande Mataram cannot be allowed inside the mosque. “We have other words and songs for our India we can say.” An aide of the reporter even questions his loyalty to India.
The Imam tells the reporter that he does not associate himself with chanting slogans like Vande Mataram. The ‘reporter’ than moves to an old Muslim man and asks him that why are young Muslims not chanting Vande Mataram in this day and age. The video then shows a group putting the Indian national flag atop a mosque. They shout ‘Baharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’. The ‘reporter’ then gathers a group of men who tell him that they have held flag ceremonies on every Independence Day for the last four years. “We do it for unity and for our mother India,” says one man donning a saffron colour scarf. Another man says that they want the tri-colour to be hoisted on every mosque and every house. On the Facebook page, which has total of around 6,800 likes, the video has a whopping 56,000 shares and 30,000 comments — most of them incendiary and Islamophobic and pro-Hindutva. Since the video was filmed and uploaded, Maulvi Mursaleen has left his job of Imamat (leading prayer) at the mosque and returned to his village Adhmi. “We have asked our brother to quit his job. It is not safe for him to be there anymore,” his brother Mohd Dilshad told Clarion India on the phone on Sunday.
He, however, asserted that the situation in the area is peaceful and “communities have always lived in amity” while adding that some elements are trying to create communal tensions. “Why should someone be forced to say something? Why are they asking Muslims to prove their loyalty to the nation? This is wrong. We have fought for its freedom and contributed to the nation,” said Dilshad. He alleged that his brother Mursaleen had objected to a group of men barging into the mosque with their shoes and asked them to respect the sanctity of the mosque. According to Mohd Dilshad, after the video went viral the Superintendent of Police and Sub-Divisional Magistrate visited Bapoli and warned Sharma to refrain from indulging in such acts. “They told him that he cannot force anyone to chant slogans,” Dilshad said.
A panchayat (meeting) called by villagers to interrogate the Imam was also cancelled, said Dilshad. However, a Police officer at the police station told Clarion India no case has been filed since they have not received any complaint. He did not elaborate further.
After the video surfaced on social media, journalists and activists tracking Hindutva politics dug out the history of Rohit Sharma. Journalist Alishan Jafri has run a proper thread on Twitter showing that Sharma is the same person who tried to force Anmol Pritam, a Dalit journalist with online news portal National Dastak, to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’ during a rally at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar where hate-filled slogans were raised on August 8. According to Jafri, Sharma doubles up as ‘reporter’ as well as supporter of Hindutva groups in rallies.
At the Jantar Mantar rally, Sharma was seen prompting the mob to raise slogans like “Jab Mulle Kate Iayenge, wo Ram Ram Chillayenge” (when Muslims will be slaughtered, they will cry Ram Ram)
Sharma’s profile picture on his Twitter shows him sitting with Dr Sambit Patra, the spokesperson of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. His bio reads he is founder of “WEC (World Education Centre)”.