Muslims peacefully offering namaz (or daily prayers) on a private property in Gurgaon’s Sector 12-A today were faced by a crowd – that locals claimed included Bajrang Dal workers – shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram‘ slogans, underlining growing tension in the area over this issue.
Similarly tense scenes have been seen in Sector 47 (a more urban area), where namaz offered outdoors on government-owned land triggered protests and demands that it stop or move indoors.
Visuals from today showed heavy police presence (including members of the state’s Rapid Action Force) as the Muslim community offered prayers.
The video showed dozens of cops standing guard behind a few of metal barricades holding back a protesting crowd shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram‘ slogans.
Among those challenging the namaz was a local lawyer – a Kulbhushan Bharadwaj – who can be seen arguing with the cops. A former BJP leader, Bharadwaj represented the Jamia Millia shooter when he was arrested by Gurgaon Police for allegedly making communal speeches.
It was only after the police offered assurances that the crowd dispersed.
The ‘assurances’ relate to a dispute over where Muslims can offer their daily prayers – the practice of which is enshrined in the Constitution as part of the right to freedom of religion.
This happened today near sector 12-A in Gurgaon as local residents gathered yet again to protest the Friday prayers which was reportedly being offered on a pvt property.. pic.twitter.com/DRxoTsYk2U
— Mohammad Ghazali (@ghazalimohammad) October 22, 2021
In both cases – Sector 47 and Sector 12-A – the namaz sites were part of 37 identified by the Gurgaon district administration on which Muslims are ‘allowed’ to offer prayers.
These are sites chosen after talks between Hindu and Muslims in the wake of similar events in 2018.
Speaking to reporters last week (after the Sector 47 protests) Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said that everyone had a right to pray, but also that “those offering prayers should not block road traffic”.
“No one should hurt sentiments nor should anyone disrupt prayers… and if they are praying at designated sites, as suggested by district administration, that should not be disrupted,” he said.
“The issue should be resolved amicably and the local administration is handling it well,” he added.
At Sector 47 – where protests have been going on for four weeks – residents claim “mischievous elements” or “Rohingya refugees” use the prayers as an excuse to commit crimes in the area.
According to news agency ANI, they also claimed namaz was allowed on the site for one day only.
Over the past weeks they’ve turned up shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram‘ slogans and holding placards that read ‘stop namaz in open spaces’ or ‘offer namaz in mosques’.
Multiple rounds of talks with those residents has, so far, failed to find a compromise, ACP Aman Yadav was quoted by ANI last week; “We are making efforts to find a solution… residents have shown us a list (of sites) issued three years ago. We have to verify the list too,” he said.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Krishan Pal Gurjar – the junior Social Justice minister – has said people must be allowed to offer their prayers if the sites had, in fact, been designated for such purposes.
The confrontation in Gurgaon comes amid some shocking comments by senior BJP leaders, including MP Anantkumar Hegde, who hit out at “noise emitted from mosques during azan“.
Days earlier another MP, Tejasvi Surya, slammed ‘made-in-India’ clothing brand Fabindia for naming one of its collections with an Urdu term – ‘Jashn-E-Riwaaz’.
With input from ANI