A group of retired Indian Administrative Service officers on Monday wrote to the chief secretary of Haryana, Depinder Singh Dhesi, urging him to ensure that Muslims who gather for Friday namaaz in public spaces are not attacked by mobs.
The letter comes a day after Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that Muslims should offer namaaz only in mosques and not public spaces. “If there is not enough space for namaaz, then it should be offered at a personal place. These are not things that should be put on display in public places,” Khattar had said.
The letter has been signed by eleven former IAS officers, including Sundar Burra, former secretary in Maharashtra government; Harsh Mander, former official of the Madhya Pradesh government; K Sujatha Rao, former health secretary of the government of India; and Ardhendhu Sen, former chief secretary in the West Bengal government.
The retired officers said groups offering namaaz in open spaces have been attacked in several locations in Gurugram in the past month. They said the attacks were organised by the Hindu Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, which includes a dozen organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Gorakshak Dal and the Shiv Sena.
The officers said last week a group of people arrived at a namaaz venue on MG Road in Gurugram and shouted provocative slogans. Even though the police were present at the spot, they did not act, and instead asked the people offering prayers to disperse, they alleged.
“The attacks are coordinated, violent and clearly designed to terrorise and intimidate and are taking place across the district,” the letter read. “We have also seen a gradual intensification of hate-mongering and allegations against the Muslim community in supposedly upmarket colonies.”
The retired officers alleged that Hindutva organisations are misleading people and inciting hatred against Muslims. The organisations claim that Muslims are trying to occupy and build mosques on empty plots and intimidate Hindus with a show of strength on Fridays, the letter added. “The bogey of ‘unknown outsiders’ entering Hindu colonies in the guise of namaazis is also repeatedly being raised,” it said.
The letter further said: “It is equally noteworthy that there was not a single incident of retaliation or even confrontation by the namaazis.”
They said it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the right of all citizens to practise their religion. “If Hindus can organise their Bhagavati Jagaran, Navratra gatherings and Durga Pujas freely in public spaces, where is the rationale for preventing Muslims from offering prayers in open fields?”