For greater than two months now, right-wing Hindu teams have been protesting in opposition to Muslims providing Friday prayers in public areas in Gurugram – lower than an hour outdoors the Indian capital New Delhi – inflicting outrage and nervousness among the many minority.
Final Friday, the demonstrators parked practically a dozen vans at one of many prayer websites in Sector 37 of Gurugram, which is best identified by its older title Gurgaon, within the northern state of Haryana, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP).
As a bunch of Muslims arrived for the weekly congregational prayers, a crowd of Hindu males started shouting spiritual slogans, together with Hail Lord Ram, heckling the worshippers, and saying the prayers wouldn’t be allowed – all within the presence of heavy police safety.
Gurugram, house to 1.1 million individuals, in keeping with the 2011 census, is a monetary and expertise hub the place quite a few multinational corporations have their places of work. Lower than 5 % of its residents are Muslim.
Confronted with a scarcity of mosques, Gurugram’s Muslims had been providing their Friday prayers in parks and on empty heaps for years with due approval from the authorities. About 100 such websites had been earmarked for the aim.
However persistent protests by Hindu teams have disrupted the prayers in latest months, prompting metropolis officers to withdraw permission from many of the websites.
‘No prayers right here’
In a video that went viral final Friday, a Hindu vigilante named Dinesh Bharti was seen heckling a Muslim imam, recognized as Shehzad Khan, saying in Hindi: “Namaz nahi hogi yahan (There received’t be any prayers right here).” He was dragged away by the police and reportedly arrested later for instigation and disturbance of public peace.
Indian media reviews mentioned Bharti had been arrested on related expenses earlier as nicely.
Since mid-September, right-wing Hindu teams beneath the banner of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti (Joint Hindu Wrestle Committee) have been disrupting Friday prayers throughout Gurugram, as soon as by spreading cow dung over a web site and at occasions by holding Hindu prayers as a substitute.
“We aren’t in opposition to namaz (prayer) however we’re in opposition to namaz being supplied in public locations,” Rajiv Mittal, spokesman of the umbrella group, instructed Al Jazeera.
“Now we have no downside with Muslims providing namaz in mosques, madrasas (spiritual faculties) or on Waqf land or properties. We additionally don’t have any downside if namaz is obtainable at anybody’s non-public property.”
Waqf refers to endowments made by a Muslim to a spiritual, academic or charitable trigger.
Mittal mentioned his organisation won’t enable any prayers in public areas in Gurgaon subsequent Friday.
“Now we have given our ultimatum to the administration that we are going to not enable namaz [in the open] wherever [in Gurugram] on December 10,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Nonetheless, Muslims say they’ve been praying in public areas for years due to an “inadequate” variety of mosques within the metropolis.
“We’re praying in open areas due to compulsion, not due to alternative,” Altaf Ahmad, co-founder of Gurgaon Muslim Council, instructed Al Jazeera.
“There are solely 13 mosques practical in your complete Gurgaon area,” he mentioned.
Ahmad mentioned there have been no less than 108 open areas within the metropolis the place Muslims prayed till three years in the past. He mentioned the primary occasion of disruption got here in Might 2018, lowering the variety of websites for Friday prayers to 37.
“That quantity additional shrank to about 20 final month,” he mentioned.
Mufti Mohammad Saleem, president of the native chapter of Jamiat Ulema E-Hind, a number one organisation of Islamic students, instructed Al Jazeera that “namaz has not been taking place even at these 20 designated websites as a result of members of the right-wing teams have been coming there, blocking the websites or disrupting it”.
“Final Friday, namaz was supplied at solely 13 or 14 websites,” he mentioned. “We aren’t positive whether or not they may enable namaz at any public area subsequent Friday.”
A latest report by the Scroll.in web site mentioned there are no less than eight such “flashpoints” within the metropolis, together with the company blocks of Sector 43 and 44, the decision centres of Sector 39 and 40, the housing colonies and factories of Sector 18, the auto markets of Sector 12, the prosperous flats of DLF Section III neighbourhood, and the extra modest residential quarters and factories of Sector 37.
Muslims demand land for mosques
In October, India’s highly effective House Minister Amit Shah accused the principle opposition Congress get together of practising “appeasement politics” by permitting Muslims to hope on roads.
“Earlier, once I got here right here in the course of the Congress authorities, some individuals instructed me that the federal government had permitted the highways for namaz on Fridays. Congress does solely appeasement and might’t do any welfare work for the individuals,” Shah mentioned throughout a speech within the northern Uttarakhand state, additionally ruled by the BJP.
The continual disruptions by the Hindu teams have turn into a reason behind concern for Gurugram’s Muslims. Saleem mentioned town administration “ought to take the difficulty critically” and cease the teams from blocking extra websites.
“We’re avoiding any confrontation with these teams. Now we have requested our individuals to not interact in any verbal spat or any confrontation with them,” he mentioned.
“If the administration stops them earlier than reaching a prayer web site, there could be no battle.”
Final month, the Gurugram administration revoked permission from eight of the 37 designated public areas for prayers, citing “objections” by the world’s residents.
Gurugram’s Deputy Police Commissioner Yash Garg instructed Al Jazeera there isn’t a “written permission” for Muslims to hope in these 37 websites and it was being carried out solely by an “understanding between the communities” reached in 2018.
“There is no such thing as a official permission as a result of it’s not a matter of proper at a public place,” Garg mentioned. “Police have at all times been on the positioning. Individuals who have been making an attempt to disrupt have been arrested.”
Ahmad of the Gurgaon Muslim Council mentioned Muslims are able to cease praying in open areas if the federal government offers the land to assemble new mosques.
“We aren’t asking for land without cost. We’re able to pay. But when they won’t present us land to assemble mosques, the place will we go and pray?” he requested.
Native Muslims say many Waqf properties in Gurugram have been encroached upon and so they need the federal government at hand them again to the group.
In the meantime, Gurugram’s civil society has been looking for a decision to the disaster. Final month, a neighborhood Hindu businessman supplied his premises for Friday prayers whereas a lot of gurdwaras (Sikh temples) had been additionally opened for the group.
Muslim teams need the opposition political events to lift the difficulty within the ongoing session of Parliament.
“Proper-wing teams haven’t solely disrupted Friday prayers but in addition stripped Muslims of praying with dignity. It’s a deliberate try to disturb the peaceable prayers and communal concord of this cosmopolitan metropolis,” Ahmad mentioned.
On the finish of the Friday prayers final week, imam Shehzad Khan prayed for communal concord between Hindus and Muslims.
“Muslims are as a lot the residents of India as Hindus. Our forefathers gave huge sacrifices for the liberty of this nation,” he mentioned, his arms folded.
“Oh God, please information Hindus and Muslims to stay united in a bond of brotherhood.”