Muslims offering namaz at a designated open site in Gurgaon’s Sector 37 were interrupted once again by right-wing Hindu groups, with tensions mounting as they performed a ‘prayer’ that claimed to commemorate the 26/11 terror attacks.
The gathered Muslims initially had planned to leave without praying, but then around 25 decided to go ahead. They prayed to shouts of ‘Jai Shri Ram‘ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ from less than 30 metres.
150 policemen were present scene but only 30 stood between the two groups.
The moment the 20-minute namaz ended, two men from the Hindu group crossed the distance to claim the space. The Muslim community members decided to leave the site peacefully.
Muslims will also not pray at gurdwaras in the city today.
The city’s Gurdwara Singh Sabha Committee said space would not be offered because Muslims had “not sought space for namaz“, but underlined its resolve to stand with the minority community.
However, anti-Muslim posters outside one gurdwara have raised questions about pressure from right-wing groups, some of whom had earlier spread cow dung over a namaz site.
Last week – in a show of solidarity hailed by many – the gurudwara committee offered to open its doors to Muslims so they could offer namaz in peace. “(this is) ‘guru ghar’… open for all communities with no discrimination…” the head of a gurdwara in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar said.
Two days later, though, the committee backtracked on that offer. A spokesperson was quoted by news agency ANI as saying “Muslims themselves refused to offer namaz to avoid any conflict”.
Muslims in Gurgaon have been stopped from offering weekly prayers for a few months, with some residents – boosted, reportedly, by right-wing groups – slamming religious displays in public.
Two weeks ago tensions flared in the city’s Sector 12A area, where people reportedly affiliated with Hindu groups occupied the land and claimed to be making a volleyball court.
Visuals showed the sitting around on plastic chairs eating nuts. “We will not allow namaz, no matter what…” Veer Yadav, one of those at the site, said.
Nearby, rows of cow dung cakes spread across the ground last week – after some people held a “puja” that included spreading the dung over the namaz prayer spot – remain untouched.
Again, Muslim groups, rather than exacerbate matters, said they would not offer prayers.
The Sector 12A site is one of 29 sites (it used to be 37 before local authorities withdrew permission for eight and warned of “objections”) set aside for the offer of namaz after an agreement between Hindus and Muslims following similar clashes in 2018.
The Sector 12A site was also where 30 people were detained by police during earlier weeks.
When the protests first made headlines Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said everyone had a right to pray, but he also issued a caveat, saying “those offering prayers should not block road traffic”.
The namaz row also reared its ugly head in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad last week, after members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad performed a “purification ritual” at a garden in a residential area.
Police said no case had been filed because no one had filed a complaint.