Muslim Bangle Seller's 'Multiple IDs' Led to Love Jihad Claims. Here's the Truth
Tasleem's family says there is only one Aadhaar number, with updated details after a mix-up in the PM Awas Yojana.
“Suno, jaldi se papa ka Aadhaar card bhejo aur Tasleem ka jo bhi kagaj hai jaldi WhatsAap karo” (Listen, send father's Aadhaar card via WhatsApp immediately and also whatever Tasleem's documents are there), says Jamal, one of Tasleem's younger brothers, over the phone to his mother in Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi.
Cramped in a tiny six-foot room in Indore’s Musafirkahan, Tasleem’s 70-year-old grandfather, 48-year-old uncle, and his five brothers were struggling to collect documents – from Aadhaar cards, to voter identity cards to land-related documents – so they can show that there are similar discrepancies in their identity cards, to those Tasleem has been accused of.
On 22 August, Tasleem was brutally thrashed in the New Govind Nagar colony of Banganga, Indore, for selling bangles in the Hindu-dominated area.
A day later, Tasleem was booked by the police under seven sections of the Indian Penal Code, including the offence of forgery, for carrying multiple identity cards with different names.
The First Information Report (FIR) also listed offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, with Tasleem accused by those who had beaten him of allegedly molesting a girl studying in class 6 from the colony, whom he had been allegedly selling bangles to.
He was subsequently arrested and sent to jail after being produced before a magistrate via video conferencing.
'Two' Aadhaar Cards Used to Insinuate 'Love Jihad', Family Says They're Actually the Same
Earlier that day, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra told reporters in Bhopal that Tasleem was found in possession of two Aadhaar cards and that he was selling bangles in a Hindu-dominated area by hiding his real identity, which was what had led to the incident.
After the home minister's claim, the state's Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State President VD Sharma, and Member of Legislative Assembly Rameshwar Sharma linked the incident with the bogey of 'love-jihad' raised by the BJP and right-wing groups in multiple states.
They questioned why Tasleem had been found in possession of two Aadhaar cards and a voter ID card with a Hindu name. VD Sharma went so far as to term it as 'soft terrorism'.
Back in Musafirkhana, amongst the Aadhaar cards sent by Tasleem's family from the village in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi district, is that of his wife Neeta. In her attempts to establish Tasleem's innocence, Neeta also provided the voter ID card and Aadhaar card of her father-in-law, Tasleem's father.
According to the documents she sent, Tasleem's father has two identity cards. His voter ID card which was made on 11 February 2001 mentions his name as Mehar Singh, son of Alam, in English, but in Hindi this becomes Mohar Singh. His Aadhaar card, made in 2017, carries the name Mohar Ali in both Hindi and English.
Tasleem's father was a cattle trader until 2000, but he turned to selling bangles after the government prohibited the sale of bovines. The Aadhaar cards of five of Tasleem's brothers have their father's name as Mohar Singh while two sons (including Tasleem) have Mohar Ali, as per their documents.
According to Horilal, the former pradhan of Tasleem's village, the father's official name is indeed Mohar Singh, son of Alam, and this is the name under which the state government had granted him five acres of land in 1995.
As far as Tasleem is concerned, the family said he has three identity cards.
His voter ID card carries his nickname Bhura (as he was known to the local officials), and says that he is the son of Mohar Singh.
Then there are 'two' Aadhaar cards. One has the name Tasleem on it, and says on the back that he is the son of Mohar Ali. And his second Aadhaar has name Asleem, son of Mohar Singh. However, according to the family, these are not two different sets of identification, but instead the old and new cards printed out for the same Aadhaar number, following a change of details.
The change was made after Tasleem's name was incorrectly printed as Asleem in the beneficiary list for the Prime Minister Awas Yojana, in connection with the land allotted to the family. His father's name in his entry on the beneficiary list was also specified as Mohar Singh, in accordance with the records.
"When his name came in PM Awas Yojana beneficiary's list as Asleem, son of Mohar Singh, instead of rectifying it, he made changes in the existing Aadhaar with the same names which was printed in the list to avail the benefits of the scheme," his maternal grandfather (nana), Mor Singh, explained.
Essentially, Tasleem was worried that if he tried to get the name on the beneficiary list rectified, he would lose the benefits (to which he was technically entitled). As a result, he chose to instead get his name on the Aadhaar database changed.
The 70-year-old grandfather accompanied Tasleem to the police station when he went to record his statement a day after the incident. He said he was made to wait there for almost 20 hours, and then the police arrested Tasleem, following which Mor Singh fell ill.
"Sahab, uske dono Aadhaar ka number ek hi hai, wo do nahi hai" (Sir, both the Aadhar cards have the same number), he added, reiterating that there were in fact no different IDs.
This is the same argument raised by Tasleem's maternal uncle, who also goes by the name Mor Singh. "Tasleem wasn't hiding anything. All the names in two Aadhaar and the voter ID card are correct. Even both Aadhaar cards have the same numbers," he said.
Despite his surname, the uncle is a practising Muslim, sporting a long beard and wearing a skullcap. He also sells bangles to make a living.
When asked how a Muslim, who is sporting a long beard and wears skullcap, can be a 'Mor Singh' he replied, "Hum jahil log hai sahab jo sarpanch ne naam de diya voter card me wahi hamara naam ho gaya" (We are ignorant people, whatever name the sarpanch gave for our voter cards, that became our official name).
He gave the same reply when asked how Tasleem's grandfather and he – and depending on the pronunciation, even Tasleem's father – can have the same name: Mor or More or Mohar Singh.
"We never bothered about the 'real names', we call each other by nicknames. When Tasleem's father realised that Mohar Singh (his name on his voter ID card and the alleged land records) wouldn't be considered a Muslim's name, he made it Mohar Ali in the Aadhaar which was made in 2017," he explained.
Meanwhile, Tasleem's brother jumped into the conversation saying that it is the same illiteracy that has led to some of the brothers having Mohar Singh as their father's name on documents while some now have Mohar Ali.
"Gao me har aadmi ka card galat naam se bana hua hai. Hum to padhe likhe bhi nahi hain ke sahi aur galat samjhe. Ab police keh rahi hai ke hum Hindu naam rakh ke galat kaam karte hai. Usko phasaya ja raha hai babuji bacha lijye" (In the village, every person's card is made with the wrong name. We are not educated enough to understand what is correct and incorrect. Now the police are saying that we are taking Hindu names to do wrong things. He (Tasleem) is being framed, please save him), Jamal pleaded.
Cops Give Conflicting Information on Aadhaar Cards, Former Pradhan Backs Family's Claims
A senior cop of the Indore police confirmed to The Quint that the Aadhaar cards found in possession of Tasleem bear the same numbers, as claimed by Tasleem's family.
When the issue of discrepancies in Tasleem's Aadhaar and voter ID cards was raised before the Superintendent of Police (SP) Indore (East), Ashutosh Bagri, Bagri however termed it as having a second Aadhaar card, even as the claim about the PM Awas Yojana was confirmed.
"A team which was sent to Tasleem's native village Hardoi to verify his claims and criminal records confirmed that despite having an Aadhaar, he made another one to avail the benefit of PM Awas Yojana after his name incorrectly made out in the beneficiary's list."SP Indore (east) Ashutosh Bagri
"Since his voter ID card is half burnt, the team can't confirm his name which was printed in it but we are probing it," he further said adding that police found no criminal record against Tasleem.
Commenting over row over Tasleem's 'different names', the former pradhan Horilal said, "You can't differentiate between Hindu and Muslim with their names in our village as we have common names. Many of Muslim families in our village have Hindu names and they live with no problem with it."
He added, "I told Tasleem multiple times to rectify the mistake of his Aadhaar and voter card which bears his name Bhura and these might land him in trouble but never paid any heed to my words."
The former pradhan further claimed that more than a dozen people in the village have similar discrepancies in their names on various documents like Tasleem does, but no one has been framed in a case like him.
'If MPs Can Have Incorrect ID Cards, Why Not a Bangle Seller?'
The police action against Tasleem has drawn criticism from the opposition Congress party, who termed the police's behaviour arbitrary and baseless. MLA Jitu Patwari (a former minister in the short-lived Kamal Nath government) also slammed the police's action during a rally on 25 August in Indore, and demanded justice.
Going a step further, Congress leader Premchand Guddu (a former Member of Parliament from Ujjain) met with DIG Indore Manish Kapuriya on Thursday to register his disagreement.
Speaking to The Quint over the phone, he said,
"I have three ID cards with different names. My Parliament identity card has Premchand Guddu, while my certificate name is Premchand and it's different in bank account. When we can make such mistakes, why can't an illiterate bangle seller?"
"To justify the incident of lynching, the BJP government and police unethically booked a poor bangle seller and it's painting a wrong image of Madhya Pradesh police across the world," Guddu added, lamenting how Tasleem was being framed in a false case after having been beaten by a mob for nothing but his Muslim identity.
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