In Gurgaon, the Gods Have Fled as Hindutva Leaders Flip Puja Into Anti-Muslim Politics


As I write these traces, photos and movies pop up earlier than me on varied social media platforms of an occasion in an open house in Gurgaon’s Sector 12A.

Folks clad in saffron are seen sitting and there’s a lot of exercise happening. I can see a younger man with a saffron flag raised in a militant means, busy along with his cell phone. Folks appear to be in an excellent rush. Loudspeakers are blaring a boring  musical rendering “Ram Siya Ram… .” The digital camera captures the face of a small-time BJP chief who has gained notoriety – or, slightly, fame in his personal parivar – for having provoked violence in opposition to Muslims final 12 months in Delhi and being brazen about his anti Muslim hate mongering. Lately, the extra you abuse Muslims, the upper you rise in Hindutva circles. So, he’s the chief visitor of the occasion.

The occasion is ostensibly of Govardhan Puja, we’re knowledgeable. Nevertheless, I’ve by no means seen Govardhan Puja being carried out on this method. The day chosen was additionally unsuitable as Govardhan Puja truly falls  on November 6. I’ve at all times understood that at the present time belongs to ladies – sisters, truly. It’s a very emotional event for them because it has to do with their bonding with their brothers. Ladies of the mohallas collect, make photos utilizing cow dung, color and cotton and carry out some rituals. The tongues of brothers are symbolically pierced with ‘Rengni ka kanta.’ Sisters apply the Rengni thorn gently to the tongue of their brothers. They sing with a trembling voice. I’ve seen tears within the eyes of sisters who’ve misplaced their brothers.

In Bihar and components of jap Uttar Pradesh the occasion known as Godhan puja. I noticed it being carried out in Shahpur Jat too after I moved to Delhi a few years in the past. It’s a very intimate event. Males are seldom seen. So, what is going on in Gurgaon? Is it actually Govardhan Puja or one thing else? Why is the title of Ram being loudly invoked on a day which belongs, in different components of India, to Krishna?

It’s mentioned that Krishna, by lifting Govardhan, had protected his folks and humbled the boastful Indra, God of rains. It’s true that Ram was Krishna and Krishna was Ram however every had his personal place of honour within the Hindu creativeness. Now we see Ram elbowing in in all places and edging out all devtas and devis. It must be a explanation for concern for them that their days are being appropriated by Ram however we all know that Gods function by way of their devotees. Gone are the times when Tulsidas would discover it troublesome to bow earlier than any God however Ram and Surdas would solely sing the leela of Krishna. I think about with horror Surdas being compelled to chant Jai Shri Ram by twenty first century ‘bhakts’.

Govardhan Puja at erstwhile namaz website in Gurugram. Picture : Naomi Barton

Because it seems, there’s not even one Krishna devotee who would rise to the event. However then the Sector 12A event will not be a sacred one, I ought to perceive. It isn’t about Gods. It’s about those that use their Gods as their weapons to terrorise others, these they wish to dominate and subjugate others. Sector 12A is an enemy put up annexed.

Till final Friday, Muslims would collect on this spot within the afternoon to supply their customary juma namaz. From at the moment, it ceases to be an area for them. They’ve been pushed out. From right here and from 15 different spots in Gurgaon. Is Govardhan Puja occurring there too? That is about 2021. In case you begin counting from 2017, Muslims have been barred from almost 70 spots.

These spots are open areas. Muslims have been utilizing these areas for an hour or two on Fridays to carry out their collective namaz. This can be a non secular obligation for them. Many non-Muslims understand it, for whom Friday is like every other day. However Juma is a special occasion within the week for the Muslims. They provide a collective prayer within the afternoon on at the present time. Many people who aren’t Muslim would have noticed since our childhood Muslims gathering for this collective prayer: in mosques, if accessible within the neighborhood, or in any open house the place they will collect and carry out this prayer peacefully. In some locations, in addition they spill on to the roads close to mosques if they can’t all be accommodated there. Many people are used to this Friday sight. Christians have their Sunday mass, a weekly collective non secular apply. However Hindus would not have any custom of collective prayers. They go to temples always however there isn’t a special occasion or hour marked for his or her prayers.

That is the openness and suppleness Hindus used to flaunt about their non secular practices, typically to criticise the regime prescribed in different religions. Step by step, this ‘pleasure’ became envy and jealousy. After which anger. However that could be a lengthy dialogue. Hindus have lived with folks following Islam and Christianity for ages and have additionally learnt to understand their rituals. Typically with amusement, generally with irritation however seldom has the considered not permitting them to carry out their non secular  customs animated them.

Occasions have modified. Now Muslims providing namaz collectively are being offered as a menace to Hindus. Hindus are being made to view any Muslim gathering as doubtlessly harmful. A person Muslim may be good however a gaggle is to not be trusted, is what’s being drilled into the top of Hindus. This prejudice may be very helpful for the politics of the RSS and BJP.

Allow us to return to Gurgaon, which is now referred to as Gurugram formally. Simply as we have now slowly being giving up all our various traditions to undertake a customized, nationalised Hinduness, this title change too was meekly accepted. That apart, Gurgaon has villages that are surrounded by urbanised constructions. It is usually referred to as a futuristic metropolis. It’s an extension of the nationwide capital. The declare is made that it’s cosmopolitan. An odd mixture of conventional communitarian mindset with urbanised areas is what Gurgaon is. A spot of pros and conventional artisans too. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs dwell right here in a dispersed method.

There are temples in abundance in Gurgaon however solely 10 mosques – eight within the older areas and two within the newly populated half. If there are almost 5 lakh Muslims there, maybe some one lakh would offer namaz on Fridays. They work at completely different places. Some handle to get an area close to their office, some must traverse a long way. Till 2018, this had by no means brought on any public inconvenience. Then a gaggle began rising, promising to cleanse Gurgaon. Writing for the Hindustan Occasions that 12 months, Snighdha Poonam reported:

 “On 10 June, a Hindu priest and his followers met at a funds bar in Gurugram (beforehand Gurgaon) to declare struggle on Muslims. The alcohol had been changed by a vegetarian buffet, the doorways and home windows thrown open to gentle up the darkish inside, the tables and chairs rearranged to host a press convention, however the scent of low cost whiskey remained thick within the air.

“Ignoring the inappropriate setting, Narsinghanand Saraswati stared arduous on the collected members of the press and made his pressing announcement: “We’re about to launch a revolution on the land of Gurgaon.” Simply out of arrest for making an attempt to set himself on fireplace in entrance of Haryana’s chief minister’s residence to protest public namaz in Gurugram, Sawaswati mentioned he was going to organise a maha havan within the metropolis to “destroy the enemies of Hindus.”

The graph of Naringhanand has risen sharply since then. He was not too long ago anointed head of the Juna Akhada. Identified for his violent and inflammatory language, he has been left free by this authorities even when he made extremely obscene remarks in opposition to the BJP’s ladies leaders. He’s clearly serving a bigger objective for the cultural politics of the Sangh parivar.

In 2018, we noticed gangs of younger males disrupting the juma namaz at completely different spots.The police did strive to withstand them. A few of the goons had been arrested however let off quickly after. The assaults continued. The chief minister of Haryana mentioned that Muslims ought to carry out namaz in mosques and never open areas. One other minister mentioned that this open-air namaz was a nefarious design to seize land.

A propaganda marketing campaign began that if the Muslims weren’t stopped, they’d construct mosques on these open plots. That is when civic-minded residents in Gurgaon intervened. A platform emerged out of the method referred to as the Gurgaon Nagarik Ekta Manch. They held discussions with the administration to make sure peace prevailed and that the Muslim namazis weren’t harassed. It was clear that the administration was underneath super political strain. Some officers tried to carry out their obligation, however solely to an extent.

Inside a span of 2-3 weeks, collective namaz within the open, which had not disturbed a soul in a long time, was turned controversial. One other claimant to the open spots emerged. The violence of the goons was handled as a real expression of concern of Hindus. They had been provided a seat on the negotiating desk.

The  administration  wished peace however who or what was disrupting it. Was it the namaz or the goons attacking the namaz? The reply was identified however Muslims had been requested to know. The administration mentioned that it can not guarantee safety in all places. So, the variety of spots was introduced right down to 37. I keep in mind events when a few of us went to the namaz websites to construct a human chain to guard them from assault.

It was a surreal sight. Muslims gathering for prayer which requires absolute peace. However the specter of violence hovered over them. The police was standing guard. Namaz, which was such a commonplace factor, grew to become a spectacle.

Lots of dialogue befell then. Anthropology, sociology, social psychology, all sciences had been deployed to know what should be blamed for this. Demographic modifications had been mentioned, whether or not migration was inflicting an issue, and many others. Folks began arguing that it was not a elementary proper of the Muslims to hope at open public areas, forgetting that the difficulty at stake was not the (momentary) use of public areas however the political ambitions of Hindutva teams. Something with a Muslim contact may be controverted now. Haj home, Urdu, meals, something.

Three years later, we see the identical set of goons transferring from one namaz spot to a different, mobilising some locals, utilizing the prevailing anti Muslim scepticism in Hindu minds to color the namaz as a conspiracy to seize land, thus making a menace to ‘Hindu pursuits’ in all places.

The administration once more needs peace at any price. So, it humours the violent group. it asks Muslims to understand the fragile scenario they’re in, cajoles them to go away extra spots, threatens to withdraw permission from all of the spots if they don’t agree. In any case, is namaz extra valuable than peace?

The Hindutva teams are jubilant at this victory.That they had introduced that they’d maintain collective prayer on Fridays with drums. By the grace of God, Govardhan Puja fell on the primary Friday of November this 12 months. Any further, the Hindus of Gurgaon will see a brand new non secular apply: puja on Friday afternoons. However the title of god is not going to be on the lips of the organisers; as an alternative, abuses in opposition to Muslims will circulation out of their mouths to match the violence of their hearts. The gods have fled the faith promoted by these ‘devotees’ and been changed by different objects of veneration.

We should, nevertheless, inform our cops and civil directors that once they succumb to the calls for of violent mobsters, they diminish themselves. They arm-twist Muslims  however can not reply to violent teams. In personal, they’ll little doubt blame political energy. The query is: who’re they then?

Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi College


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