In a viral video shared by a local activist with Swarajya Magazine journalist Swati Goel Sharma, a fruit seller and his associate, reportedly Dalit Hindus, can be seen recounting the tale of harassment faced at the hands of local Muslims in Begusrai in Bihar for putting up a saffron flag on their cart.
They narrated how they were stopped on their way and interrogated about the flag on their cart. “What are you trying to prove by showcasing this flag?”, the group of Muslims intimidated the duo. Since they were outnumbered, the duo wanted to steer clear of any confrontation. The fruit seller said, “If I don’t sell my fruits, then, it will hurt me financially. We are daily wage earners. If we suffer loss for a day, then, we won’t be able to cope up with it.”
But, the group which was irked by the display of saffron pushed his cart in a bid to provoke him. He was evidently unwelcome in the locality. The Dalit man warned, “The flag will remain intact. If someone believes that he has the might to overturn my cart, then, let him try his hand. We were standing on the road and not on private property.” The group then left them and went about their way.
Rest of the video. “Just because we installed a saffron flag, have we become different persons now?” asks the vendor pic.twitter.com/GHaBe0mwur— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) April 27, 2020
He narrated how the lockdown has affected his business. The poor vendor, however, clarified that he will sell items to all, irrespective of religion and that the saffron flag has nothing to do with it. “I am Hindu and I will sport the saffron flag”, he reaffirmed.
“They have stopped me on the road today. I am a not a thief. Why should I vacate my cart? Tomorrow, they might as well tell me to not go home.”, the vegetable seller said.
Police harassment for displaying saffron flags in Nalanda
This is not the first time that a poor shopkeeper was harassed for displaying saffron flags. Earlier, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against some shop owners in Nalanda in Bihar, for sporting saffron flags in their shops. The FIR was lodged after a complaint was lodged by a block officer named Rajiv Ranjan at the Laheri Police station in Biharsharif on April 20.
The police had pressed charges under several Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections such as 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 153A (promoting enmity between religions), 188 (Disobedience) and 295A (Malicious act to outrage religious feelings).
Hindu banners removed in Jharkhand
On Saturday, a group of fruit sellers in Jamshedpur were booked by the city police for writing “Vishwa Hindu Parishad ki anumodit Hindu fal Dukan” which translates to “Hindu fruit shop approved by Vishwa Hindu Parishad”. In addition, the banners of the shop also carried the photos of Hindus deities– Lord Shiva and Lord Rama along with the phone numbers of the shop owners.
However, wearing one’s identity on their sleeves did not sit well with the Jamshedpur police which acted on a complaint raised by one Twitter user, Ahsan Razi, about the overt manifestation of religion by the shop owners. The police reached the spot and got the banners removed.