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In India, Muslims Need Police Protection to Pray, Hindu Committee Determined to ‘Awaken Hindu Society’

Muslim prayers (namaz) are being attacked in Gurgaon (also called Gurugram), India. A number of attacks by Hindu fundamentalist groups were reported in the first weeks of May. All of them were on Muslims who were offering prayers in public as is the custom on Fridays. Hindu fundamentalist group, Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, who was found to have been behind the attacks, has put forward a list of demands in relation to Muslims offering their Namaz in public.

The demands, however, do not seem to be about Namaz but about the economic and social activities of Muslims. The Hindu fundamentalists’ attack on namaz was done accusing Muslims of encroaching property adjacent to mosques. Wazirabad, Atul Kataria Chowk, Cyber Park, Bakhtawar Chowk and at South City were some of the places where namaz was attacked. Police had to be deployed in these areas as Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti said that they would continue with their attacks.

Earlier, on April 20, namaz in an open ground in Sector 43 had been disrupted by a group of eight men. Police officials arrested six of the eight men. Following this, Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti took out a protest march demanding cancellation of the FIR against the six youths.

Provocative comments were made by right-wing politicians over the issue. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that it wasn’t right to pray in open spaces. He said that if there was a shortage of spaces the prayers should be done at home.

Intolerance towards Muslim rituals is common in India. From celebrities to politicians, religious celebrations, customs etc, of Muslims are demonised or ridiculed. Popular singer, Sonu Nigam had said on social media, in April 2017, ‘I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India.’ Azaan is a mosque’s call to prayer.

The Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti that finds namaz a problem is a coalition of many Hindu fundamentalist outfits including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Hindu Jagran Manch, Kranti Dal and the Gou Raksha Dal Haryana. NDTV reported that this Samiti intended to ‘awaken Hindu society’. It does not want Muslims to pray in open spaces and ‘fears’ that Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya Muslims are encroaching land in Gurgaon.

‘Two years ago, the Muslim population here was two lakhs, but today it is around nine lakhs. These are not locals Muslims, they have not been identified,’ said Rajiv Mittal, the Samiti’s president to NDTV. Members of the Samiti see namaz as a show of strength by Muslims and believe they need to be monitored.

Dharmendra Yadav, head of the Gou Raksha Dal Haryana proudly said that he had managed to register over 400 cases against Muslims for cow smuggling from Gurgaon to Mewat. [Lynching of Muslim dairy farmers accusing them of cow slaughter has become common in this belt.] ‘Do you remember when two Muslim men were forced to eat cow dung? Guess who was behind it? The BBC, Al-Jazeera have made documentaries on my work and I’m on TV debates often,’ he told the news channel.

They could not give an explanation as to how these were related to Muslims offering Namaz.

Gurgaon has around 7 lakh Muslims and only 22 mosques. This leaves them with no option but to offer prayers in open spaces. ‘We are not disturbing anyone,’ Haji Shehzad Khan, who filed the police complaint in the Wazirabad matter told Hindustan Times.

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