A Muslim boy was beaten in India for entering and drinking water from a Hindu temple, multiple Indian media outlets reported on Sunday.
The incident took place on Thursday in the city of Dasna in Ghaziabad district, which lies in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The 14-year-old boy had entered the temple to drink water when he was noticed by the temple caretaker, Shringi Nandan Yadav, 23, who proceeded to beat the boy, the boy's family told the Hindustan Times.
“My son stopped to drink water from a tap located inside the temple as he was thirsty. He was beaten up after they asked his identity. He suffered a head injury," said the father, adding that his son usually didn't frequent the temple and has been told to stay clear of it in the future.
"He was badly beaten up and humiliated. Does water have a religion? I don’t think there is any religion that can refuse water to a thirsty person," he said while speaking to The Indian Express. He lamented that the temple had been open to the public in the past but that changed, adding that he hoped his son would receive justice.
Ghaziabad police took notice of the incident and arrested the main accused, Yadav, along with Shivanand Saraswati, another caretaker, who had recorded the incident. The recorded video was circulated online on social media platforms and went viral on Friday evening.
Cases were registered against the two men under Indian Penal Code sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), 352 (assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and also provisions of the Information Technology Act.
Senior Superintendent of Police Ghaziabad Kalanidhi Naithani said the main accused had been arrested shortly after the incident had first come to light.
"Any person found indulging in anti-social activities will face strict action by the police," he told The Indian Express.
Yadav had been staying in the temple for the past three months and both arrested individuals had contributed to the viral spread of the video, said another police officer.
Police officials said Yadav, hailing from Bihar, had shifted to Ghaziabad six months ago. He was doing voluntary service at the Dasna Devi Temple and considered himself a disciple of its caretaker, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati.
Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) posted Yadav's picture on Twitter on Saturday. "[The] NCPCR Is committed to providing justice to the child."
'He's a good man'
The management committee of the temple, meanwhile, said it would extend its help to Yadav for legal aid. A member from the committee, Anil Yadav, said the temple bore full responsibility for the event.
"There is a conspiracy; that boy was not alone," he said, chalking the incident off as an attempt to charge the atmosphere.
He defended Yadav as a "good man" who had lost his job as an engineer during the Covid-19 pandemic and decided to volunteer at the temple by managing their IT system. "We will make sure he’s free."
Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati alleged the boy had been caught spitting in the temple and the temple authorities would seek bail for the two arrested individuals.
Temple authorities said they had prohibited entry of non-Hindu people while it is written on a board placed outside the temple, "This temple is a holy place for Hindus, it is forbidden for Muslims to enter. By order of Narsinghanand Saraswati.”
Saraswati is a rightwing preacher whose inflammatory speeches were also shared by the main accused on his social media, along with pictures of him holding various weapons.