Muslims in Haryana’s Gurgaon faced yet more protests from right-wing groups today while trying to offer namaz. Interruption of namaz in open spaces, particularly on government-owned land, has taken place every week for the past few months in the city, which is part of the national capital region.
This week – at the city’s Udyog Vihar neighbourhood – there was a heated exchange of words after an angry mob seemed to harass Muslims gathered to pray, demanding they chant ‘Bharat mata ki jai‘.
Visuals showed the two groups (some of whom had no face masks) shouting at each other.
A man wearing a saffron-coloured shawl, another man in a maroon shirt and wool cap, and a third in a blue shirt can be heard demanding the Muslims shout ‘Bharat mata ki jai‘.
“We will force you… You will have to say it… you will have to say it… you will have to say it,” the man in the maroon shirt screams. “Why can’t you say it… Do you live in Pakistan?” another person is heard.
“We’re trying to pray… why are you doing this?” the Muslims ask but their pleas are drowned out.
At this point the man in the saffron shawl points a finger at the Muslims and says: “If you want to stay in Bharat, you have to say it (‘Bharat mata ki jai‘).”
Some of the Muslims gathered to pray then start a chant of their own: “Mahatma Gandhi ki… jai, Mahatma Gandhi ki… jai, Mahatma Gandhi ki… jai.”
In another video the man in the maroon shirt, now at the centre of a sea of people jostling and pushing, can be seen shouting: “We will not allow namaz to be held here.”
According to news agency PTI, police soon arrived at the scene and tried to hold talks. Neither the district administration nor the police have issued a statement as yet.
PTI reported that namaz was offered in other places in Gurgaon, including in those selected by the administration after talks between the two religious communities following similar clashes in 2018.
Muslims, however, stayed away from Sector 37 – one of the designated sites – where a Hindu religious ceremony was being performed. The Sector 37 site, in the past, has also seen hostile stand-offs.
Controversy over the offer of namaz yesterday reached the Supreme Court, after an ex-Rajya Sabha MP sought action against state officials, including the DGP of Haryana Police, for failing to comply with directions regarding curbing of communal and violent sentiments that result in hate crimes.
As protests erupt each week, police presence has been required to maintain some law and order. But this has not, so far, deterred the right-wing groups from turning out in force each time.
Last month Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said Muslims would not be allowed to offer namaz in open spaces in the city; this was effectively a withdrawal of the 2018 deal.
He told reporters “we won’t tolerate the custom of offering namaz in the open“.
With input from PTI