On 20th May 2023, a case of allegedly spreading disharmony between two communities was booked in the Sillod (Rural) police station in the Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar district of Maharashtra. As per the complaint filed by one Amir Shaukat Shaha (age 31), the Sillod police filed an FIR against a 23-year-old Hindu youth Sagar Viththal Wankhede who shared an allegedly contentious social media post and arrested him as he was charged under section 295A of the IPC.

Sagar Wankhede was produced before the Sillod sessions court on the same day and he was remanded to magistrate custody for 14 days. There is resentment among the local Hindu youths as the young man was booked under the severe section just for sharing a post on social media. The post showed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj crushing Aurangzeb’s head under his feet calling him ‘Aurangya’. In this post, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj was identified as Dharmaveer as he is popularly known in Maharashtra.

Complainant Amir Shaukat Shaha is a resident of Borgaon Bazar in the Sillod Taluka of the Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar district in Maharashtra. He complained against Sagar Viththal Wankhede who lives in the same village for allegedly sharing the said post on his Facebook page ‘Sagar Bhai’. Amir Shaukat Shaha took screenshots of the post and showed them to Sheikh Kalim Sheikh Mohammed Sharif and Sheikh Kalim Sheikh Shakur. Sagar Wankhede allegedly shared this Facebook post on 19th May 2023 at around 9:54 pm.

Amir Shaukat Shaha alleged in his complaint that because Aurangzeb was called ‘Aurangya’ in this post and Dharmaveer was written for Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, his religious sentiment got hurt and religious sentiments of Muslims got hurt and hence he is filing the complaint. He said that this act by Sagar Wankhede is spreading disharmony between two communities, therefore an action should be taken against him.

In the FIR, police said that after the spot investigation, the mobile phone used by the accused is seized and the accused is arrested. The police further said in the FIR that the complainant is a Muslim and the accused belongs to the Maratha caste. The police told the court that the post shared by Sagar Wankhede caused a law and order situation. The police also said that the post shared by the accused harmed the religious sentiments of Muslims and that there was a possibility of a serious law and order situation and breach of the peaceful environment could be caused by that post. The police urged the court to grand 14 days Magistrate Custody Remand of Sagar Wankhede which was approved the same day. Sagar Wankhede is currently lodged in the Harsul jail in Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar.

OpIndia contacted Appasaheb Paradhe – the joint secretary of the RSS for the Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar district. While providing more information about the case, he said, “This FIR was booked because of the pressure exerted by some workers of the local MLA Abdul Sattar. The clip shared by Sagar Wankhede was not made by him. He too got it from somewhere on social media. Maybe an Instagram handle that is named in the watermark of that reel or cartoon. The complainant then reached the Sillod (Rural) police station along with a mob of 50 Muslims to file the complaint.”

It is notable that Abdul Sattar is the MLA from Sillod. He was earlier in the Indian National Congress. Later, he joined Shiv Sena. He was among the 40 MLAs who went to Guwahati with Eknath Shinde alleging that Uddhav Thackeray was moving away from the Hindutva ideology.

Appasaheb Paradhe added, “The API Sitaram Mehetre involved as an officer, in this case, has a past record of booking cases against pro-Hindutva people. A similar case was also registered against Kalicharan Maharaj, Kamlesh Katariya (BJP city chief of Sillod) and Ketan Kalyankar (RSS Bauddhik Head of the district), and others in the recent past. That case was filed suo moto, without anyone filing the complaint.”

Appasaheb Paradhe further said, “The complainant Amir Shaukat Shaha is made to file this case by some local supporters of Abdul Sattar. Abdul Sattar is known for taking a specific stand in such cases. The police officer Sitaram Mehetre probing this case is considered to be close to MLA Abdul Sattar. Systematic suppression of RSS and BJP is a usual thing in this constituency. While the rural demography here is Hindu majority, the urban demography in Sillod is Muslim dominated.”

He added, “There was no law and order situation here. No one initiated any violence in this case. But there was a feeling of resentment among the Hindu youths as Sagar Wankhede was booked under the severe section for just a social media post. As the news is spreading, the people in the rural parts of the Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar district are sharing the same feeling. Around 50 people reached the police station. I don’t know if they raised any slogans but hurting religious sentiment is mentioned in the FIR. Most of them were from the village of Borgaon Bazar only.”

Informing more about similar incidents in the past, he said, “So many such incidents have happened here in Sillod in the past where the religious sentiments of Hindus were hurt. The police did not take such swift action against offenders at that time. Ratnapur (Khultabad) where Aurangzeb was buried is not so far from here. Some local Muslims tried to name a Chowk as Aurangzeb Chowk in that town. This happened around 40 to 50 days ago. Dr Wankhede is a local medical practitioner in that town. He opposed this move by the local Muslims and reached the police station with a complaint. He said that the local body has not given any permission to name that square after Aurangzeb. But at around 12:30in the night, a mob of Muslims pelted stones at his hospital and caused heavy damage. In that case, the Khultabad police took a stance that would protect the offender Muslims.”

When asked about probing officer API Sitaram Mehetre’s stand on this case, he said, “We also talked to API Sitaram Mehetre. During our conversation, we told him that Aurangzeb is not a religious figure. He is not any prophet too. He is not regarded as someone great. He is not named or pictorially represented in our constitution. In fact, he is seen as a tyrant. He cited the reasons for probable disturbance to law and order. We then cited some of the incidents in the past and asked him why these problems arise only when some Hindus allegedly hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims and why not the other way around. Why didn’t you take any suo moto action at that time? Why didn’t the police entertain any complaints by Hindus and file any FIR at those times? To this question, he told that the mob that came to the police station was assertive to get this FIR booked. If we had not registered it, maybe some unsolicited incident would happen then.”

Appasaheb Paradhe further said, “Advocate Samadhan Jadhav is representing the case of Sagar Wankhede. A bail plea is submitted in the district court. The court will hear it on 26th May 2023. We will also urge the court to cancel the severe charges over some social media posts. We will also go to the tribunal against the session judge who gave the Magistrate Custody Remand of the Hindu youth. If the police are unnecessarily taking such cases under the pressure of the mobs, at least the judiciary should show some sensibility in such cases.”

Many Hindu activists on social media expressed that API Mehetre who got this FIR registered should be transferred or suspended. OpIndia also contacted the officer but he could not give time to communicate citing that he was on duty.