Friday Prayer Issue in Millennium city Hindutva forces want to keep communal pot boiling

It seems a renewed bid to push this satellite town of the National Capital Region (NCR) into a communal cauldron, gathers Abdul Bari Masoud

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Abdul Bari Masoud

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It seems a renewed bid to push this satellite town of the National Capital Region (NCR) into a communal cauldron, gathers Abdul Bari Masoud

Amid threats of disruption, provocative sloganeering and Vedic rituals aarti and bhajan recital from ultra right-wing groups, around 100 Muslims offered Friday prayers at Sector 47 in Gurgaon while the police pushed them to shift their prayers to a site around 200 metres from the original spot which was at the edge of the ground.

It seems a renewed bid to push this satellite town of the National Capital Region (NCR) into a communal cauldron. Since March this year, attempts have been made to disrupt Friday namaz on one pretext or the other. It is a rerun of 2018 when the ultra outfit calling itself Bharat Mata Vahini had first demanded a ban on Friday prayers at spaces outside mosques. The outfit once again has been active now by using a handful of residents to stage protests at the designated namaz sites in the city.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to disrupt namaz in the town, leading the police to designate sites for Friday prayers as there were not enough mosques to offer namaz. In 2018, the Gurgaon district administration designated 37 sites, including the Sector 47 site, as places where prayers could be offered on Friday.

But that hasn’t stopped the friction as the communal forces with the tacit support of the political dispensation, want to keep communal pot boiling.

After a communal flare-up in 2018 on offering of namaz at public places, the administration reduced the number of sites from 100 to 40. “Despite the site being in the list, we weren’t allowed to offer prayers on Friday,” Imam Abdul Haseeb said.

He said members of Bharat Mata Vahini, led by Dinesh Bharti and Sudhir Kumar, create disturbances in the city. “Their repeated actions are promoting a feeling of enmity and ill-will between two peaceful communities,” the imam said.

Concerned citizens expressed their dismay at the way the police dealt with these miscreants and anti-social elements who, under the garb of religion, tried to create communal discord in a city which is called as ‘millennium town’ housing many MNCs headquarters.

Police’s lenient attitude has emboldened these anti-national elements, said former Member of Parliament Mohammad Adeeb, who especially came to Sector 47 to offer namaz.

Despite not being well, I went to the site to offer Friday prayer in order to give strength to my fellow brethren , Adeeb told Radiance.

It is very unfortunate that Muslims are not being allowed to offer prayers on the land of a country which is a common heritage, he said.

“Muslims of this country who ditched Jinnah and embraced Gandhiji, are today not allowed to offer namaz in their own country. It is a shame that we are still seeing these days. What kind of country have we become? What kind of atmosphere has been created in the country? And a country gives its citizens the constitutional right to practise their own religion.”

He alleged that mosques were not being allowed to be built on Waqf Board land, he added, “We are not asking for any funds. We can construct mosques on our own. Just give us land.”

Referring to the case of One-Minar Mosque, the ex-MP said the local Muslims won the case in lower and higher courts but the mosque was still locked.

There were only 10 to 12 mosques in this fast growing city which are hardly enough for the 5,00,000-strong Muslim community to offer namaz.

Speaking with Radiance, president of Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, Gurgaon said Muslims have no option but to perform namaz in open spaces.

“It takes only 20 to 30 minutes to perform namaz, that too just once a week, but the communal forces have a problem with it. People from nearby areas come here for namaz,” said Mufti Salim and added that for the past few weeks, these elements have been staging protests. They also carried placards demanding a stop to Friday prayers at open spaces.

Two days before Friday, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Haryana has sent a memorandum to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, demanding strict action against those who try to disturb communal harmony in the city.

The memorandum was presented to BJP Haryana Minority Morcha President and Haryana Waqf Board Chairman Chaudri Zakir Hussain.

Mufti Salim said, “We have also filed a complaint to the Gurgaon Police Commissioner on September 29, asking the force to take action immediately.”

According to the complaint, Dinesh Bharti of Vahini has adopted the old way of disrupting Friday prayers in Sector 47, so that his outfit can stop offering Friday prayers at all the places where these have been held for a long time.

Earlier, a civil society group, Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch (GNEM), also wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner, urging appropriate action under the CrPC against Bharat Mata Vahini after they threatened to disrupt Friday prayers.

Altaf Ahmad, a Gurgaon resident, who was an active member of the forum, said the group apprised the police of the threats through a letter.

The letter stated, “A handful of people are overruling the Constitution of India that gives citizens the right to practise their faith without fear. Their allegations are completely false. This is being done to malign and suppress Muslims. I appeal to the administration and the state government of Haryana to allocate land in several sectors of Gurugram so that we can build mosques.”

“This has emboldened the group considerably and they have been regularly issuing warnings via social media to Muslim residents of Gurugram with threats to continue disrupting the Jumma namaaz,” the letter said.

Talking to Radiance, Ahmad said the Hindutva outfit uses the bogus fear of land grab by Muslims by setting up mosques to mobilise the supporters.

He said a delegation of the Ekta Manch called on the Deputy Commissioner of Police and raised their concern about threats over namaz.

“We have been observing that Bharat Mata Vahini and its members have been showing up at the namaaz locations, intimidating Imams and using provocative and hurtful language in a planned attempt to disrupt prayers and provoke violence. Their latest attempt was on 24th September at Sector 47, opposite the Vigilance Office, which is on the administration’s list of namaaz sites,” said the Manch in its letter to the Gurgaon police.

“This is creating anxiety among Muslims with regards to their safety and security. There is no place for such behaviour in a secular and democratic country like ours. We believe that an FIR has already been filed against the leaders of Bharat Mata Vahini in the past, and we request appropriate legal action as per CrPC be taken in order to protect our Constitutional values, as well as to ensure there is no breakdown in law and order,” the letter further stated.

It may be recalled that earlier an FIR was registered against Dinesh Bharti on April 16, 2021 under Sections 153-A and 34 of the IPC Act. Police arrested six men, including Bharti but they were later released under political pressure.

These miscreants have open support from the state’s ruling BJP members. Kuldeep Yadav, councillor of Ward 29, who was present at the spot, said they submitted a written complaint to the administration. “We asked the administration to tell us which resident consented to the use of this site for offering prayers. Residents are protesting because they want this practice to end,” he said.

Sunil Yadav, president of the Residents’ Welfare Association of Sector 47, said, “Every week, hundreds of people gather in this area to offer namaz on government land. Due to this, vehicular movement gets affected as the plot is next to a private school and the namaz timings clash with the time when school ends and our children return home.”

Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti leader Rajiv Mittal makes some outlandish allegation which is the trademark of Hindutva outfits in the country.

When asked why despite a long presence of Muslims in the area, the namaz has suddenly become an issue, Mittal said, “It is not about namaz. It’s a sensitive issue linked to national security. If there are four lakh illegal Rohingya and Bangladeshis here and the government is not doing anything, the administration has been silent; we can’t just sit at home wearing bangles.”

However, local Muslims counter these allegations. They said blocking traffic was a blatant lie. They also said being asked to move was a violation of their right to worship.

Nadir Khan, who works at Spazedge, said these elements seem to be brainless people who make such absurd allegations in order to mislead gullible people.

While Aslam Khan, chairman of Anjuman Masjid in Sector 57, the lone mosque in New Gurgaon said that the number of devotees offering namaz at the place had almost doubled and in order to accommodate over 1,000 people, we usually hold two rounds of namaz.

There is enough waqf land that can be used for constructing new mosques but the community does not get permission for this. Ex MP Adeeb, who is shifted to Sector 28 in Gurgaon, puts more blame on the Haryana Waqf Board for this messy situation. He also planned to meet the Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit Singh on the issue.

This correspondent made many attempts to contact Chaudhary Zakir Hussain to know his side on the issue but failed. Husain is currently the Administrator of Haryana Waqf Board and the national vice-president of BJP Minority Morcha; earlier he was three-time MLA from Nuh in Mewat.