An FIR was lodged against the Shahi Imam on a complaint by Mohammad Abdul Waheed Chisti, the reporter of a Urdu daily, at the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow. The case was registered under sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC.
Bukhari has been urging Muslims not to accept a verdict based on faith. He also trashed the idea of a negotiated settlement to the Ayodhya dispute. This afternoon, when Chishti asked him why Muslims “shouldn’t be allowed to build an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood by resolving the issue through dialogue”, Bukhari at first ignored him.
But Chishti, who said he brings out a newsweekly from Lucknow, wouldn’t give up. “I wanted to ask imam sahab what harm will it cause if we give up the land in Ayodhya for Hindus…. It’s time we made a new beginning,” he said.
Two minutes later, when Chishti stood up again, Bukhari shouted: “It is because of people like you that the mosque was brought down. You traitor, shut up.” Then he wrapped up the conference.
What provoked the assault was the media interest in Chishti that followed. As soon as the press conference was over, the electronic media swooped on Chishti for his reaction.
His men tried to pull Chishti away from the TV cameras but were pushed away by the mediamen. Soon afterwards, Bukhari’s men told him that the journalist was talking to TV channels outside. Bhukhari, standing in a corner of the hotel hall, watched for some time. Then he asked his aides to catch hold of the scribe and beat him up.
As his men attacked Chishti, some journalists grappled to stave them off. Bukhari was shouting at the top of his voice threatening the journalist with dire consequences. Chased out of the conference hall, he was first slapped by Bukhari and then roughed up by the imam’s supporters.
“The maulana is a respected cleric, but the way he acted today, it was worse than a hooligan,” Chishti told reporters soon after the melee ended.
Waheed Chishti, a sufi, is general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Maha Sufi Sangh Seva Samity. He represents the Dastan-e-Awadh weekly.
Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the Ayodhya case, castigated the maulana for “irresponsible” and “shameful” conduct. He said the attack on the scribe was a result of “frustration”.
“The imam is frustrated as his efforts to sell himself as the messiah of Muslims have failed,” Ansari said, calling Bukhari an “opportunist” trying to capitalise on the Ayodhya verdict to serve vested interests.