Hindutva groups in Haryana’s Gurgaon said they had stopped Muslims from praying in several open spaces on Friday.
The disruptions came two weeks after Hindu residents of two villages in Gurgaon’s Sector 53 had stopped namaaz in an open space where around 700 Muslim men gathered every Friday afternoon. The villagers alleged that Muslims used the weekly prayers as an excuse to encroach on government land.
By 1.30 pm on Friday, members of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti said that they had prevented namaaz from being conducted in 10 open spaces in areas that included Atul Kataria Chowk, Sikanderpur, Cyber Park Sector 40, Wazirabad and Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road. The Samiti is an umbrella body of the local units of 12 Hindutva groups including the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Hindu Jagran Manch and the, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal, according to its members.
“Muslims have to take permission of the administration to pray in open spaces,” said Rajeev Mittal, national coordinator of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal. “Members of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti have today [Friday] interfered in 10 cases where Muslims were found preparing before the namaaz. We did not let that happen. But no law and order issues were reported. Our demand was clear – get permission from the authorities.”
Abhishek Gaur, district president of Bajrang Dal in Gurgaon added: “Members of our group are looking out for open space namaaz today and they have been asked to stop the Muslims whenever they spot any without getting into any law and order trouble.”
Residents of Gurgaon confirmed some of the disruptions. Documentary film maker Rahul Roy, who lives near Sikanderpur, said that the namaaz outside the metro station had to stop around 1.30 pm when three or four packed vehicles arrived there. “The men tried to storm into the area where the namaaz was taking place,” he said. “They were stopped by the police and finally they left. The Muslims were too terrified to resume the namaaz.”
Social media users also witnessed some of the disruptions.
On Friday afternoon, senior police officials in Gurgaon said that no complaints had been received in connection with any of the namaaz disruptions. “Our duty is to maintain law and order,” said Ravinder Kumar, Gurgaon Police spokesperson. “It is the district administration’s call on where it would allow namaaz to happen and where not.”
Gurgaon divisional commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh did not respond to phone calls and messages till the time this report was filed.
The situation has been tense since April 20, when Hindu residents of the villages of Wazirabad and Kanhai descended on a field in Gurgaon’s Sector 53 where hundreds of Muslim men had gathered for namaaz and forced them to leave. After a video of the incident surfaced on social media, six persons were arrested for hurting religious sentiments. They were later released on bail.
On April 27, the namaaz at Sector 53 took place only because there was intense police deployment. But this week, Muslims canceled the prayers in Sector 53 fearing attacks by Hindus from nearby villages and members of local Hindutva outfits who have led protests against them, said Hafeez Junaid, who along with his brothers organise the prayers in the Sector 53 ground.
Abhishek Gaur of Bajrang Dal said that stopping the namaaz in Sector 53 was the group’s first achievement. “Now, we have to make sure that namaaz stops in all open grounds in Gurgaon one after another,” he said.
While, so far, no word has come from the district administration on whether Muslims will now be required to obtain written permission from the authorities to organise prayers in open spaces, Gurgaon Police has prepared a list that Scroll.in has seen of 35 open spaces where security has to be stepped up.
Earlier in the day, Hindu residents of Wazirabad and Kanhai villages had insisted that if Muslims gathered for the Friday prayers on the open ground in Sector 53, they would organise a havan or Hindu fire ritual in the same place. When the Muslims in the area stepped back, the Hindus changed their plans too. “No havan will happen now,” said Sube Singh Vohra, former sarpanch of Wazirabad village.
On Monday, the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, which was formed after the April 20 incident, had organised a protest outside the secretariat demanding that the authorities put a stop to prayers organised by Muslims in open spaces in the vicinity of Hindu-dominated neighbourhoods.
On Thursday, a group of around 130 residents of Gurgaon wrote to the divisional commissioner protesting against the demands of the Hindutva groups. They urged to the district administration to assuage fear of the Muslim community and support upholding of their constitutional rights to peacefully pray without any fear or intimidation, said Radha Khan, one of the signatories in the letter.
There are 22 mosques in Gurgaon, the biggest one being a half-constructed structure in Sector 57 that is now tied up in a legal dispute. Gurgaon’s Muslims also gather for Friday prayers in an estimated 106 open spaces. The Sector 53 ground was the second open space in Gurgaon at which Muslims began to conduct Friday prayers. The first spot was in Sector 29.