Indian police beat man 'thinking he was Muslim'

Indian police say they beat a man because they 'thought he was Muslim'
2 min read
20 May, 2020
The police officers thought Deepak Bundele was Muslim because of his beard, officials allegedly told him.
Critics accused India's Hindu nationalist government of stoking anti-Muslim violence [Getty]
An Indian lawyer who was beaten by the police has said the officers admitted to attacking him only because they thought he was a Muslim.

Deepak Bundele was "brutally" beaten by two police officers when he was on his way to a hospital in late March in Betul, a town in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Two months later, police officers are still attempting to get him to retract his statement, Bundele told The Wire.

As part of their efforts to get Bundele to withdraw his statement, police officials told the lawyer that he was only beaten because the officers involved thought he was Muslim.

The statement can be heard in an audio recording allegedly showing Bundele's conversation with the officers.

"We are truly embarrassed because of the incident. If you want I can bring those officials and make them apologise in person to you," the officials are heard saying in the recording published by The Wire.

Read more: The pandemic and rising Islamophobia mar Ramadan in India

"All those people are ashamed that they did something like this to a Hindu brother without knowing his identity... We do not have any enmity against you. Whenever there is a Hindu-Muslim riot, police always supports the Hindus; even Muslims know this. But whatever happened with you was because of ignorance," the officials continued.

Bundele then asks if he was beaten because the officers thought he was a Muslim.

"Yes, exactly. You had a long beard. The man [who assaulted you] is a staunch Hindu… In Hindu-Muslim riots whenever a Muslim is arrested, he beats them up brutally, always," the officials answered.

Bundele has refused to withdraw his complaint.

"Even if I was a Muslim, what gives the police the right to assault them without any cause," he told The Wire.

Mass violence, linked to tensions between religious communities, is not uncommon in India, with prominent incidents of Hindu-Muslim communal riots claiming the lives of thousands over the past decades.

The 1992 destruction of an historic mosque by Hindu nationalists sparked violence resulting in at least 1,200 deaths, while the deadly 2002 burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims sparked an anti-Muslim pogrom that killed as many as 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.

In recent years, the right-wing Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of stoking Islamophobia and following an anti-Muslim legislative agenda.

Modi also stands accused of fuelling the fire of the deadly 2002 riots as chief minister of Gujarat.

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