Bhopal Anti-Macron Protest: FIR Against Congress MLA, Others for 'Promoting Enmity'

Hindutva outfit Dharm Sanskriti Samiti alleged in its complaint that Arif Masood made an inflammatory speech against the French president and the BJP-led Central government, over the Prophet cartoon row.

Bhopal: On complaint of a right-wing outfit, Madhya Pradesh police has registered a first information report (FIR) against Congress MLA Arif Masood and six others for making inflammatory speech and promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion on Wednesday, the police said.

The Talaiya police of Bhopal have booked Congress MLA from Bhopal Central, Arif Masood along with Shahwar Mansoori, Akeel Ur Rahman, Nayeem Khan, Mohammad Salar, Ikram Hasmi and Abdul Nayeem under section 153-A of the IPC (non-bailable) for making inflammatory speech during a rally that took place at Iqbal Maidan on October 29. The protest rally was held against French President Emmanuel Macron’s alleged anti-Islamic statement against Prophet Mohammad and Islam, following the prophet’s cartoon row in the European country.

The Prophet Mohammad cartoon row

Last month a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded in a Paris suburb after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students during a classroom discussion on freedom of speech. The accused, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, was shot dead by the police shortly after the killing.

Following the incident, Macron had reportedly said he could understand the ‘sentiments’ being expressed by Muslims over the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. However, he added that the issue never justified violence.

The caricature of the Prophet Mohammad was republished by a French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, recently.

In an interview to Al Jazeera, Macron said the caricatures are not a governmental project, but emerged from free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government. He added that it’s his duty to uphold freedom of expression.

Also read: To Mock or Not to Mock Religions, That Is the Question

FIR against Congress MLA Arif Masood

The FIR came a day after Masood along with 49 others were arrested and released on November 3 for violating section 188 of the IPC and other sections of Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Act for holding a rally on October 29 at Iqbal Maidan. He was released the same day on bail after furnishing bail bonds.

Following the registration of the FIR, Bhopal Municipal Corporation on Thursday afternoon demolished Indira Priyadarshani College owned by Masood, alleging the building has encroached upon government land. The college is located in Khanugaon area in Bhopal.

The Hindutva outfit Dharm Sanskriti Samiti complained hours after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took the Bhopal collector Avinash Lavania and Bhopal deputy inspector general of police (DIG) Irshad Wali to task over the Iqbal Maidan rally. Soon after, the police registered an FIR on the complaint of Deepak Raghuwanshi.

In a police complaint, Raghuwanshi, general secretary of Dharm Sanskriti Samiti alleged that during the October 29 rally, Arif Masood spoke against Macron over his remark against the Prophet Mohammad and Islam. And later, the crowd allegedly burn the effigy of Macron in presence of Masood.

During the speech he had allegedly said, “We will not tolerate any ill words spoken against our Prophet Mohammad. We follow the law of the land else we would have smashed your [Macron’s] face for making derogatory remark against our Prophet.”

Islam was never in support of terrorism and it will never be. We (Muslims) are the lovers of peace, and Islam has laid the foundation stone of justice on the land.”

 He further said in the video, “We are sending a memorandum to France envoy to India to make him understand that the Indian Muslims will not tolerate defamatory words against the Prophet. Although, the government of India had supported Macron’s version against Islam, I condemn this from this stage.”

According to the video submitted to the police, Masood while addressing a gathering allegedly stated: “The ministers of the Hindu leaning government also are in support of the comments made by the president of France.” He further added, “Along with the warning sent out to the France government, we are sending out a warning to the Indian government too that if they won’t oppose the comments made by the France president, then the response will be by a brick to brick.”

Confirming the case, Upendra Jain, additional director general of police (ADGP), Bhopal, said the IPC sections were involved after fresh evidence came to light which prima facie appeared to be true. “We have registered the case based on prima facie evidence provided by the complainant and the case will be investigated further,” said Jain.

Masood claimed that the police actions are a way to stifle the protest and silence him. “I have not said anything that is beyond my right under the constitution. I will challenge this FIR much like the previous one in court,” said Masood.

Earlier, an FIR was registered against Masood and 2,000 others under section 188 of the IPC and other sections of Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Act for staging the protest in violation of COVID-19 protocols.

A month ago, Bhopal Police had registered an FIR against Masood for holding a rally against the ‘black marketing’ and ‘shortage’ of oxygen cylinders in hospitals.