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Studio burnt down over WhatsApp comment

By A Ganesh Nadar
January 08, 2016 12:11 IST
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P RafeeqP Rafeeq's comment on the burkha led to his studio being razed.
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com reports.

P Rafeeq's Obcura photo studio was burnt down in the early hours of December 27.

The arsonists were apparently angered by Rafeeq's comment on a WhatsApp group which said 'Purdah is used by few persons as a cover for immoral activities.' The studio was located in Taliparamba, Kannur district in Kerala.

"Rafeeq made this comment because he felt some people were using the veil to hide their identity," Rafeeq's cousin Mehroosh told Rediff.com

Several robberies in surrounding districts were reportedly carried out by burkha-clad individuals.

Rafeeq, left, 30, a photographer and videographer, covers marriages and other functions. He started taking photographs after dropping out of college. He started his studio two years ago and invested about Rs 10 lakhs (Rs 1 million) on it. The studio is not insured.

After he posted the controversial comment, Rafeeq received several threats on WhatsApp. Rafeeq, Mehroosh says, does not know who made these threats.

"All the threats were forwarded messages so he doesn't know from where they originated, that the police will have to find out," adds Mehroosh.

The police have not given Rafeeq protection neither has he asked for it. "He has not asked for protection because he has not received any threat directly. Nobody has called him directly and threatened him," says Mehroosh.

"Rafeeq suspects that a couple of members of his WhatsApp group may have sent the message to other people," says Mehroosh, speaking on his cousin's behalf because Rafeeq does not speak English or Hindi, only Malayalam.

"He suspects two people and has told the police about them. The police have also taken Rafeeq's tablet that he used for his social media interactions."

Rafeeq's family and friends are supporting him morally and financially during this crisis. "The Muslim community is divided on this issue," says Mehroosh, "some are supporting him, some are saying he should not be making such comments which have religious connotations."

Rafeeq was a member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, but his work as a photographer no longer gives him the time for party work. But he remains a CPI-M supporter.

After he posted the controversial comment, there was a call to boycott him and his studio. Again, Rafeeq is unaware of who issued this boycott call because that too arrived as forwards on WhatsApp. The messages said, 'Don't call him to cover marriages or any other functions.'

The '3 Fingers' group on social media has raised Rs 150,000 to help Rafeeq rebuild his studio. The group believes more money will come in.

"Secular people are supporting him," says Mehroosh, "as religious fanatics are targeting him."

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A Ganesh Nadar / Rediff.com
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