On January 8, Mumbai Police arrested 22-year-old Dawood Ibrahim Mohammad Yakub Ansari for allegedly vandalising crosses at Mahim’s St Michael’s Church cemetery. The incident took place in the early morning of January 7.
At least 18 tombstones, crosses and other structures at the 400-year-old Church were vandalised. Ansari was tracked using CCTV footage of the cemetery. Reportedly, after desecrating the crosses, the culprit sat down and prayed. The police are trying to verify the motive of his actions. Ansari was produced in front of a local court and remanded in police custody.
Finally @mumbaipolice has arrested Dawood Ibrahim Ansari, the accused in the #MahimChurch cemetery vandalism. They are investigating the matter further to ascertain why this act was committed by the accused. pic.twitter.com/AdKCVcyU0t
— Singh Varun (@singhvarun) January 8, 2023
Ansari is a resident of Kalamboli and works at a shop for his uncle in Navi Mumbai. He came to Mahim using the local train and reached the station at around 6 AM. Reportedly, the watchman spotted him and thought he was there to steal the marble. He clicked his photograph and shooed him away. Later, when he checked the graveyard, the watchman noticed several tombstones, crosses and other structures were damaged.
Deputy Commissioner (Zone V) Manoj Patil said in a statement that it is unclear why he vandalised the crosses so far. He said, “We arrested Ansari from Kalamboli, involved in vandalising crosses at the cemetery. He works with his uncle, who has a mattress shop in Navi Mumbai. So far, there is no clarity on the reason behind his acts.” Indian Express quoted sources saying that Ansari might be “mentally unstable” and no prior record was found in his name.
Hindustan Times quoted an unnamed police officer saying that a week ago, Ansari allegedly went to a mosque and started jumping around. Calling it “unusual” behaviour, the officer added that the people threw him out of the mosque.
DCP Patil added, “This is a serious matter involving a religious angle, therefore, the motive behind the incident will be investigated thoroughly, after which it will be revealed to the media.” He said the case had been registered against Ansari under several sections, including 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Police are also looking if Ansari acted alone or if more people were involved.
The incident at St Michael’s Church
As per Father Lancy Pinto, parish priest of St Michael’s Church, the incident took place at around 5 AM. Later the watchman noticed it. “There was Mass in the morning, so I came to know of the incident around 8.30 AM. Soon the police were informed.” The Church was established around 400 years ago, with the cemetery behind it. Father Pinto said Ansari was seen kneeling in the Church and praying after vandalising the crosses in the cemetery.
Hindus were blamed for the vandalism
While the police initiated the investigation and looked for the culprit, the liberal section of the social media platforms started blaming Hindus and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the vandalism.
Mr Gandhi, a Twitter user, said, “The BJP has begun their “Game” in Maharashtra. Crosses, Graves Vandalised at St Michael’s Church in Mumbai’s Mahim.”
Anti-Hindu propaganda Twitter handles Hindutva Watch said, “An unknown miscreant vandalised 18 crosses put atop the graves at a cemetery attached to St. Michael’s Church.” The Twitter handle specifically spread misinformation against Hindus and did not publish any update about the name of the culprit by the time this report was published.
Twitter user Chumba Wumba without directly blaming Hindus for the vandalism, said, “This is state-sanctioned terrorism. If this country is to be saved from becoming a failed state, all citizens, including right-minded Hindus, must join hands and uproot this regime of cowards from power once and for all.”
Congress’s Netta D’Souza blamed BJP and RSS for the increasing “hate” in the country. She published the photograph of the culprit as well. However, she cunningly avoided naming the culprit.
The “Mentally Unstable” miscreants who went on a rampage in the past
This is not the first time a “mentally unstable” person has vandalised a place of worship. On October 3, 2022, Jammu and Kashmir DGP (Prisons) Hemant Kumar Lohia was found dead under mysterious circumstances with a throat slit and burned marks on his body. Terror group People’s Anti-Fascist Force (PAFF), an offshoot of Pakistan-headquartered terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, has claimed responsibility for the murder. Prima facie, it had appeared to be a case of murder, and his domestic help Yasir Lohar was believed to be the primary suspect. Multiple media houses reported about the arrest but did not fail to mention how Yasir, who brutally killed the police officer, was ‘mentally unstable.’ The reports extensively spoke about a so-called personal diary of the accused and claimed he had mental health issues.
A week before, two Muslim women were detained for reportedly vandalising the idol of goddess Durga at a Navratri pandal in Hyderabad. The women barged into a pandal in the city’s Khairatabad locality and smashed a portion of the Durga statue, according to Hyderabad Police. When a local tried to stop them, one of the ladies attacked him with a metallic tool. Prior to this, the women had also vandalised a statue of Mother Mary outside a nearby church. Many news outlets covered the incident, although some, understandably, focused on how the two women were “mentally disturbed”. Media houses like Deccan Chronicle and TOI focused on how the accused’s brother Asimduddin claimed that his mother and sister were schizophrenic.
On the night of September 27, a man identified as Rameez Ahmed broke into the Bhagwan Hanuman temple in the Hindpuri Police Station area of Ranchi, Jharkhand, and vandalised the idol there. The police subsequently arrested Ahmed. Notably, the police had claimed that Ahmed was mentally unstable. The locals are reportedly not satisfied with the reasoning provided by the police.
Ahmed Murtaza Abbasi, on April 3 2022, screamed Allahu Akbar and tried to enter the Gorakhnath Temple. Wielding a knife that he intended to use, Abbasi injured two cops in the tussle that followed. Several revelations came to the fore after he was apprehended, and an investigation was launched. The most important revelation was that Abbasi had taken an oath of allegiance to ISIS. The mainstream media again did its best to allege that Abbasi was actually not a terrorist but merely mentally unstable. His father asserted the same rather vehemently. Later, a doctor confirmed that Abbasi was mentally fit, and there was no sign that he was unstable.
In 2018, a case of idol vandalism in a Hindu temple was reported from the Shahganj region of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It was reported that the accused had vandalised a Hanuman and Durga idol to instigate communal tensions. The devotees then caught hold of the individual reportedly trying to flee the temple premises, who, when questioned, identified himself as Sonu Khan. As per a tweet by ANI, the accused was assaulted by the locals after being tied to a tree, following which he was handed over to the police. The news agency claimed that the accused was “mentally challenged”.