Communal Clashes in Secular Country
Around 500 people claiming allegiance to various Hindutva outfits came out on the streets in support of six men who were booked last week for disrupting Friday prayers in Gurgaon, Haryana. The protesters demanded the scrapping of the FIR as well as a ban on prayer meetings in open spaces and government land without approval from authorities.
Six men —residents of Wazirabad and Kanhai villages — were arrested last week after a video clip showing them obstructing a prayer congregation at the Sector 43 ground, Gurgaon on April 20 was posted on various social media platforms. The villagers alleged that Muslims used the weekly prayers as an excuse to encroach on government land. They were booked under sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 296 (disturbing religious assembly) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC. All six got bail on Sunday itself.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's remarks that Muslims should not use public places for their Friday prayers has added fuel to the fire of an ongoing problem where right-wing groups have disrupted prayers on several occasions in Gurgaon. "In our point of view, namaz should be offered at designated places. Namaz should be offered at mosques and eidgahs. And if there is a shortage of space, then namaz should be offered in a private place. This is not something which should be displayed at public places," Khattar told the reporters in Chandigarh.
“Holding religious activities without permission from authorities is a ploy to encroach upon government land. The government should not allow such activities on open land without prior approval,” said Mahavir Bharadwaj, who was leading the demonstration organized by the ‘Joint Hindu Sangarsh Samiti’, an umbrella group comprising members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal, and Bajrang Dal, among others.
While Manohar Lal Khattar had said the government was keeping a close watch on the situation, he said that if there was a lack of places to offer prayers, people must do it inside their homes. Khattar, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party, appeared to back the Hindutva groups saying that namaaz should be offered in mosques and not public spaces. Since then he clarified his stance saying that he never talked about stopping anyone. His comments have created a further divide between the two sides involved in the controversy.
An estimate suggests the city has a population of six lakh Muslims, who hold Friday prayers in open spaces at 110 places. There are 22 mosques in Gurgaon, the largest of which is a half-constructed structure in Sector 57 that is entangled in a legal dispute. Several Muslim residents of Gurgaon fail to go to mosques for namaaz primarily because of three reasons – the lack of space, time and transport facilities.
The dissection of the society isn’t a new topic for discussion in our country but restraining the public or a particular community from offering prayer is indeed a new topic for discussion. As we live in a secular country, our constitution too provides the complete liberty to choose religion and practice it. Dividing people on religious grounds is one of the grief things that could happen to a democratic country like India. As the politicians and the national leaders seem to be the silent spectator. Their ignorance towards issues will lead to the destruction of the society and its fragmentation. Before they let us divide and kill each other, we must realize their vested interests in letting these happen. Being united and one Indian is what they are afraid of the most!!
By: Thamanna Abdul Latheef C