By Syyed Mansoor Agha
A controversy has been raging in Gurgaon on the issue of offering Friday Slat in the open since 2018. That year on Friday, May 5, some anti-Muslim elements disrupted Salat at some places and threatened not to allow Namaz at open spaces. Unfortunately, the state CM’s response to the issue pleased them. He alleged, “Incidents of Namaz being offered in the open have increased”. “Namaz should be offered in a masjid or an Idgah, and if short of space, they should offer it in their private spaces.”
Muslims immediately responded, reminding CM that all mosques locked by administration or in adverse possession should be released for Namaz and construction of New Mosques in recently developed areas should also be facilitated. Pending action, the administration marked 37 places where Friday Prayers were being held peacefully till recently. Under fresh pressures by Hindutva extremists, this number has now shrunk to 20.
As the assembly elections are nearing, one Dinesh Bharti, associated with an unheard outfit “Bharat Mata Vahini”, has whipped up the controversy once again. He claims to be associated with RSS-BJP as well as with the Union Home Minister (UHM) and the state Chief Minister (CM). The administration looks to be in tow. He was allegedly a front disrupter of Friday prayers at various places, including in Sector 12 (November 5) and helped organise Govardhan Pooja at the site of Namaz.
After the latest disruption at Sector 12, Shikha Jain, a Quint reporter, talked to one Ahmad on the spot and reported, “Bharti had played the same game in sector 39 in the month of March. He had gathered people and made sure that prayers don’t happen there anymore. The administration initially resisted, but later obliged. He did the same in Sectors 40 and 43.” Though the police arrested Bharti but freed him after 15 days, and now he looked high in spirits and declared after Puja, “I will come with sword and shall not allow resumptions of prayers.”
Even as prayers were offered peacefully in Sector 47 on 22 October after four weeks of interruption, the prayer site at Sector 12 witnessed sloganeering and chants of “Jai Shree Ram” by members of fringe groups like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP.
Bharti told on camera he approached UHM and State CM; so Pooja could be performed at the Namaz site. The administration also withdrew permission for Friday (5 November) prayer ‘to maintain law and order’ but let the place be used for Pooja. The space was not made available this Friday (12 November) also. Reports and video clips are evident that Pooja was basically a polarising political event.
Haji Shehzad of Muslim Ekta Manch told BBC after Friday prayers (12 November) in Madina Masjid, Sheetla Colony, close to Sector 12, “In District Gurgaon the administration has deprived Muslims of using 19 Mosques on different pretexts.” Another person told a Mosque in the same colony was locked recently by Municipal Corporation on some flimsy pretext. Mohd Adeeb, Ex-MP Rajya Sabha, has also appealed to the administration to allot Muslims plots to build new mosques and restore all Mosques, and Waqf lands for Namaz. In the newly developed Gurgaon, divided in 113 Sectors, plots were allotted in more than 40 Sectors for Mandirs, in 20 Sectors for Churches, and in 8 for Gurudwaras, but none for Mosques while more than half a million local and migrant Muslim workers are employed here. (Daily Inquilab, 9 November, 2021). They get a one-hour lunch break and need a nearby place for Friday congregations.
At a time when the Haryana administration was under pressure to allow Pooja at the plot used for Namaz, the Home Minister of the State, Anil Vij said, “Religious events should only be held at religious places.” He said, “Everybody should hold religious functions at the religious places only. Such events on roads should be avoided.” In response to his call, Muslims have again reminded him that Namaz is offered in parks or on vacant plots and not on roads. The paucity of mosques forces people to offer prayers in the open and no untoward incident ever occurred.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, former chairman Delhi Minority Commission and former President AIMMM, has also sought the return of 19 closed mosques plus one built in 2016, sealed by administration. He said in a tweet, ‘No need of open prayer if closed mosques are returned, construction of new mosques & additional floors allowed.’
POLITICS IN DISGUISE OF RELIGIOSITY
From May 2018 till date it is clear that it is not a public movement for any public grievance but just a handful of frenzied people in the name of Hindu-religiosity are playing politics of hatred and polarisation. It was reported that on Friday (May 4, 2018) several groups went across the city, shouting slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bangladeshi wapas jao’, and chased away prayer congregations at some places. On Friday (November 5, 2021) during Pooja in Sector 12, political slogans like “Goli maro saalon ko, Hindu ke gadaaron ko (Shoot the traitors of Hinduism)” were raised at the spot where Friday congregation had been regular till recently. The threat of using sword to stop further prayer was also issued and recorded on camera.
The presence of a controversial BJP leader Kapil Mishra gave the event political pinch. His speech in the run-up to Delhi riots – issuing an ‘ultimatum’ to the police to clear CAA protesters – is believed to have instigated anti-Muslim violence last year.
Historically, the area in and around Gurgaon has been communally harmonious. Most of the area was ruled by Muslim Nawabs. Under their command freedom fighters of both communities fought the First War of Independence in 1857 against the British occupation. After the failure, one Hindu Raja Nahar Singh and at least six Muslim Nawabs, with a large number of their noblemen and officials were executed. Many Hindu and Muslim fighters were hanged together on trees. One such tree still exists in Kamla Nehru Park, in Roshanpura village of Gurgaon.
Till Partition, Muslim population in the district was 34% which has dwindled now to less than 5% (around 1.1 million). Out of 4272 Mosques in Haryana, 204 are located in Gurgaon Administrative Circle. Twenty-two are in the villages within and around old Gurgaon. However, most of the mosques are either in adverse possession or blocked by Government agencies. In the newly developed Gurgaon, spread over miles there are only two or three active mosques – Anjuman Jama Masjid, Sector 57, and Rajiv Chowk Masjid – in New Gurugram to cater to the Muslim population. The capacity of Anjuman Masjid is just 400. Here four congregations are organised every Friday. The Rajiv Chowk Masjid is under litigation. An appeal has been pending before SC for the last ten years.
The solution lies in making functional all the locked/blocked mosques as well as those in under adverse possession.
[The writer is Chairmen Forum for Civil Rights. mail: [email protected]]