Abdul Bari Masoud covers the nitty-gritty of Gurgaon Juma Namaz issue and finds that the entire controversy is to keep the communal cauldron boiling.

The Hindutva hooligans once again disrupted Juma Namaz at free will while the Police force was as usual at the several designated sites in Gurgaon on Friday, December 10. This has become a pattern for the past couple of months in this satellite town of the national capital territory. The anti-national elements do not let Muslims go through their Friday prayers in peace. And to top it all, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s statement has added insult to their injury when he said that offering Namaz in “public” places cannot be tolerated, even as the Gurgaon district administration withdrew permission for Friday prayers at 20 designated sites in the town. All this has led to a very turbulent and toxic atmosphere all around.

“Such programmes (Namaz) should not be held in the open. This practice of offering Namaz at public spaces will not be tolerated as it is leading to controversies and confrontations. We have given directions to the police and administration to resolve the issue amicably. We will not allow any confrontation, and try to resolve it,” the Chief Minister said while speaking to the media on the side-lines of a meeting at PWD Rest House in the city. This is not the first time that the CM spoke in such a language. In 2018, he said that Namaz should be offered at mosques, Idgah or other designated places rather than public spaces.

On Friday morning these elements, who are emboldened by the alleged patronage and soft attitude of the administration, started storming the designated Namaz sites in Sector 37, Atlas Chowk, Sector 44, Sirhaul Park, Sector 22 and Genpact Park. They had occupied the parks and grounds before Muslims reached there for Friday prayers, and started shouting religious and inflammatory slogans.

Muslims alleged that despite police presence they were not allowed to perform Namaz at any site. At the Sector 44 Park, more than 100 Muslims who work in the area were turned away by police personnel amid protest.

A group of Muslims who had gathered at Sector 44 to offer Namaz told Radiance that they pleaded to the police and the Hindutva groups to allow them to perform Namaz, but they did not budge.

“It is shameful what our Hindu brothers are doing to us. We support them in their religious activities and help them in many ways during their religious festivals but they are not even ready to allow us to use an open space for 15 minutes once a week. We have been offering Namaz at this site since 2008”, lamented Irshad Ahmad who works in a company.

At Sector 37, one Imdad Ali, a worker at an industrial unit, said he had been performing Friday prayer at this site for the last two years, but never faced any issue. “Now, things are becoming ugly, and the ongoing protest is frustrating and humiliating,” he added.

These agents provocateurs under the banner of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti (SHSS) are a handful people but they receive patronage from the ruling BJP of the state. As one member of SHSS Praveen Yadav revealed that they assigned duties to each member on Thursday night. “We had shared a chart within our groups, and held a meeting with all the members on Thursday to discuss the plan of action. Our aim was to ensure that Muslims did not use our public spaces to offer Namaz, and to confront them if they insisted,” he said.

“We were well prepared and we had decided that if Muslims forcefully try to offer Namaz, we will retaliate,” said Yadav when asked about the wooden sticks kept at the site.

Unhappy with the way Muslims were stopped from offering Namaz, Altaf Ahmad, spokesperson for the Gurgaon Muslim Council (GMC) , told Radiance that Muslims in the city were forced to offer Namaz in the open as the state authorities have not allocated land to them to build mosques. “All our applications get rejected and earnest money refunded, including our latest application submitted in October, 2021. The Waqf Board and administration have not been able to get waqf properties vacated from encroachers. Now the Chief Minister has said that the 37 sites approved by the administration will be decided anew. We request him to instruct Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to allocate us land in several sectors to build multi-storey mosques, and that shall be the end of the Juma namaz row,” he said.

HISTORY OF TWO DECADES

Juma Namaz has been offered in open areas of Gurgaon for over two decades as the Muslim Community has insufficient number of mosques in Gurgaon. In new Gurgaon, HUDA has provided space for only 1 mosque in Sector 57 and that too has been put under litigation since 2006. Old Gurgaon has a few small mosques; however these are inadequate for the Muslim population staying or working in whole of Gurgaon.

In May 2018, SHSS stopped the Muslim Community from saying Juma Namaz on Friday afternoon in more than 10 open areas of Gurgaon. They hurled abuses and hurt religious sentiments of Muslims by making inflammatory statements. Representatives from the Muslim Community approached the Administration of Gurgaon to stop this far-right wing organisation from disrupting Juma Namaz at various locations of Gurgaon. During these discussions with the Administration, the Muslim Community was asked to reduce Juma sites so adequate security could be provided to those offering Namaz from unprovoked attacks. Those who negotiated on behalf of the Muslim Community with the Gurugram Administration extensively reviewed close to 108 Juma sites and offered to reduce the sites to 60 as per the request made by Administration. However, the Administration did not accept the list of 60 Juma sites and further reduced this list to 37 for Gurgaon and Manesar area collectively. This list included 3 Masjid of Gurgaon too (the Masjid should not have been in this list of open places). Those who were part of these negotiations from the Muslim Community opposed the bringing down of Juma sites to 37 from the initial list of 108 sites.

Since the Administration assured that the list of Juma places can be increased once the dust settles, the Community representatives gave into the request of the Administration.

March, 2021: Post Covid-19 lockdown, similar incidents of Juma Namaz disruption as had happened in May, 2018 started happening by one Dinesh Bharti who claims to be the head of a group called Bharat Mata Vahini. He along with a few more men have been targeting and disrupting these 37 Juma sites where the Administration had promised to provide security and ensure Juma Namaz happens peacefully every Friday afternoon. Intimidation, provocation and incitement to violence have been systematically used by this group to terrorise those congregating to offer Namaz. He succeeded in stopping Juma Namaz at Sectors 39, 40 and 43 during March and April this year.

The Community did register an FIR against Dinesh Bharti on 16 April, 2021 (FIR No. 0195) under Sections 153-A and 34 of IPC Act 1860; however, he remains undeterred. Once again since 17th September, 2021 Dinesh Bharti and his group started disturbing Juma Namaz and the communal harmony of this city.

From October 2021, SHSS, which had played a pivotal role in 2018 for disrupting Juma Namaz, joined the protest too. This time they were more aggressive in hurling abuses and communal slurs on those offering Namaz. During the month of September and October 2021, the protestors used to be stopped by Police about 50-100 metres away from the locations where Juma Namaz used to happen every Friday afternoon and often the nuisance-makers who had a history of disrupting Juma Namaz were detained or arrested.

POLICE NOT ACTING

However, since November, 2021 they are neither stopped from reaching the Juma Namaz site nor stopped from disrupting Juma Namaz. These far-right wing groups disturb Juma Namaz at free will and the Police force is seen on ground as mere spectators. In the week of Diwali, it was announced by SHSS that they will perform Govardhan Puja at the same sites where Juma Namaz happens in Gurgaon. The Muslim Community, knowing that these are important festivals of the Hindu Community, responded by issuing a statement that they will not pray Juma Namaz wherever Govardhan Puja is performed; despite knowing their mal-intentions of choosing the same spot as Namaz.

Thereafter, several Juma Prayers at multiple locations have been disrupted by performing havan or puja at the Namaz sites. Lot of secular minded Hindus such as Akshay Yadav offered their private places for Juma Namaz, seeing the Hindutva groups playing dirty tricks upon the Muslims of Gurgaon. Similarly, Sherdil Singh Sidhu, who heads the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Gurugram’s Sabzi Mandi, offered the basements of their 5 Gurdwaras at Sadar Bazar, Sector 39, Sector 46, Model Town and Jacobpura to Muslims for offering Juma Namaz. This too caused pain to these groups and they threatened the Gurdwara from letting any Juma Namaz happen in the Basement of Gurdwara. Seeing the threat and harassment which Gurdwara Committee members were subjected to, the Muslim Community thanked their Sikh brothers for opening their hearts to Muslims, however withdrew from offering Namaz at Gurdwara.

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