Gurugram: Right-wing leader held for disrupting namaz

The Sector 37 ground is one of 20 sites designated by the administration for holding Friday prayers in the open, given the paucity of mosques in the city. Even so, protests have been taking place there for the past three weeks, with Hindu groups remaining adamant about not allowing Muslims to pray in the open.
More than 700 personnel were deployed on Friday, mostly at six designated namaz sites that have seen protests in the past.(PTI file photo)
More than 700 personnel were deployed on Friday, mostly at six designated namaz sites that have seen protests in the past.(PTI file photo)
Published on Dec 04, 2021 01:50 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, Gurugram

Eleven people associated with different right-wing groups were detained on Friday by the Gurugram police for trying to disrupt namaz in the open in Sector 37, for the third consecutive week. Their efforts were thwarted by the police who formed a security cordon around the Muslims, allowing the namaz to progress without hindrance and preventing a further escalation in law and order.

The Sector 37 ground is one of 20 sites designated by the administration for holding Friday prayers in the open, given the paucity of mosques in the city. Even so, protests have been taking place there for the past three weeks, with Hindu groups remaining adamant about not allowing Muslims to pray in the open.

While 10 of those detained were later let go, Dinesh Bharti, leader of Hindu outfit Bharat Mata Vahini, was arrested for allegedly threatening Muslims who came to pray, police said.

Rajender Kumar, assistant commissioner of police, said more than 400 police personnel were deployed at the sector 37 site as Hindu groups on Thursday had informed the administration of their intention to disrupt Friday prayers. “We called in personnel from four police stations to control the situation and detained protesters before the situation could turn ugly. We created a protective layer around the Muslims offering prayers to ensure their safety and security,” he said.

More than 700 personnel were deployed on Friday, mostly at six designated namaz sites that have seen protests in the past. No violence was reported in the city but there was a disruption at a smaller site in Sector 34, where protesters turned away Muslims and did not let them offer prayers, said police.

At Sector 37, protesters parked more than 50 trucks on the ground in an effort to stop the namaz. Police had to push back protesters and make space for Muslims, but right-wing groups and residents who gathered there in protest started shouting religious slogans. Only a small portion of ground was finally used for prayers, the police later said .

Sushil Kumar, duty magistrate deployed at the Sector 37 site, said hundreds of people had assembled on the ground in protest and were requested by the police to not cause any disruption but they did not pay heed. They started shouting slogans. “They were taken into preventive custody and the site was cleared for prayers,” he said.

Among those detained was Bharti, a man at the forefront of these protests since September, who has been arrested twice. Police said Bharti allegedly stood in front of the Muslims who congregated for prayers and started threatening them even as others shouted slogans.

Avaneesh Raghav, a resident of Khandsa, said they parked trucks on the ground as they didn’t have space in the village.

“We have requested companies in the area to provide space to their Muslim employees — on rooftops, basements or premises — to offer prayers. We will not let them use our ground even if we get arrested for stopping them. Muslims offering namaz here are not locals; they come from far off places to encroach our land,” he said.

Praveen Yadav, another protester, said they will park more trucks and vehicles next Friday to leave no space for Muslims. “This is the only ground locals have to organise functions, havan (ritualistic prayers) and other activities, including weddings. No outsider is allowed to perform anything without our consent. It is very strange that people are coming here from Nuh, just to offer namaz,” said the man who himself travelled around 15-18km from his home in Sirhaul village to Sector 37 on Friday, just to protest.

Yadav said next Friday they will also target Udyog Vihar, where more than 800 Muslims offer namaz in the open.

Haji Shehzad Khan, chairman of Muslim Ekta Manch, said the situation is getting more tense as weeks pass, but with the support of police and the administration, they were able to pray on Friday. “The way the Hindu groups are trying to attack us is not fair. They were prepared to take the law into their hands but timely intervention saved us. People offered prayers even as sloganeering continued all around them,” he said.

Altaf Ahmed, a representative of the Muslim community, said, “It is a deliberate attempt to disturb the peaceful juma namaz and the communal harmony of this cosmopolitan city,” he said.

Over the past three months, right-wing groups have disrupted namaz being offered in open spaces in sectors 47, 12, 37 and Sirhaul village.

Members of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, an umbrella organisation of Hindu right-wing groups, which has been leading the protests, said they have been waiting for a month for the administration to stop the practise of namaz in public places.

“From next Friday, we will not let anyone offer prayers at any of the 20 sites and we will continue to protest and occupy the sites,” said Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, legal advisor of the samiti.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Leena Dhankhar has worked with Hindustan Times for five years. She has covered crime, traffic and excise. She now reports on civic issues and grievances of residents.

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