India: Twenty Muslim families were forced to leave their village in western Rajasthan following threats from Hindu upper caste villagers, in a string of events starting with the murder of a folk singer, a top police official said on Friday, a report in Hindustan Times said.
Hindustan Times is a newspaper based in India.
The 200-odd Muslim people, including women and children, are living under police protection in homes of their relatives at Balad, about 20 km from their village Dantal in Jaisalmer district.
The mass exodus is the latest in a series of incidents targeting the minority community in the BJP-ruled state, where a cattle trader from Haryana, Pehlu Khan, was lynched in April by a cow protection vigilante group.
Trouble at the Jaisalmer village began during a Navratri function in a village temple on September 27, where folk musician Amad Khan performed religious songs, a tradition in Dantal, about 700 km from state capital Japiur.
Khan, 45, belongs to a folk artist community known as Langa Maganiyaar.
Police said a village faith healer, Ramesh Suthar, asked Khan to sing a particular raga so that the spirit of the temple goddess enters his body, one of the so-called miracles traditional occultists claim they can perform.
Police said Suthar used to prescribe cures to various problems of the local people, attributing the solutions to the spirit of the goddess.
Suthar, however, blamed Khan’s allegedly poor singing as a reason for the goddess abandoning him on that day, police said.
“He (Suthar) broke Khan’s musical instruments and also assaulted him,” a local police officer said.
The same night, Suthar with two others allegedly kidnapped Khan from his home, Khan’s younger brother Suge Khan said. “Later, my brother’s body was thrown outside the house.”
The next day, elders of a dominant Hindu community allegedly threatened Khan’s family members against lodging a complaint with police.
“We got scared and buried his body quietly,” Suge Khan said.
They, however, mustered courage a few days later when their relatives from nearby villages came and assured them of “all help”.
Suge Khan said after the complaint was lodged, Ramesh Suthar and other upper caste villagers ordered the Muslims to leave the village.
“They threatened us that if we did not leave the village they will kill us. After that about 20 families consisting around 200 members have left the village and took shelter at nearby Balad village in our relative’s house,” Suge Khan said.
Jaisalmer superintendent of police SP Gaurav Yadav said they were trying to convince the Mulsims to return.
“We have assured them of protection if they want to return…We have also spoken to village elders and told them that cases would be lodged if they threaten the Muslims,” Yadav added.
Police arrested Ramesh Suthar on October 4 but two of his accomplices are absconding, The body of Khan was exhumed and an autopsy conducted, police added.
Police, however, said the Muslims have only lodged a murder complaint but refrained from officially accusing anyone of threat and intimidation.