Former civil servants have written open letters since 2017 (here and here), expressing their anguish at the unchecked attempts to spread hatred and discord among communities. Eleven of these civil servants have now written (on May 7, 2018) to the Chief Secretary of Haryana on the issue of harassment and intimidation of Muslims offering namaz in Haryana, by vigilante groups.
To Shri Depinder Singh Dhesi IAS, Chief Secretary, Govt of Haryana.
Dear Chief Secretary,
We write to draw your attention to an urgent problem.
Over the last one month, Friday namaaz offered by the Muslim community in open spaces have been attacked and disrupted at several locations in Gurgaon district. These attacks have been organised by a dozen or so organisations (including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Kranti Dal, Gorakshak Dal, Hindu Jagaran Manch and Shiv Sena) that have come together under the umbrella of the Hindu Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti.
The attacks are coordinated, violent and clearly designed to terrorise and intimidate and are taking place across the district. Last Friday a group of hoodlums arrived in four jeeps at a namaaz venue on MG Road and started shouting abusive and provocative slogans at the assembled namaazis. Although a police force was present, it took no action to stop the sloganeering and threats. On the contrary, the police asked the namaazis to disperse. At a namaaz in Sector 40, the Imam who was leading the prayers was pushed to the ground. People who came for the prayers had no option but to fold up their mats and leave.
Earlier this month, similar attacks by vigilante groups claiming to be Hindutva activists forced people to abandon Friday prayers in the customary venues in Sector 53, Kataria Chowk, Unitech Cyber City, Sector 40, Sector 10 and Wazirabad village. It is noteworthy that in all these cases, the police stood by and did nothing to prevent the attackers from disrupting the namaaz. It is equally noteworthy that there was not a single incident of retaliation or even confrontation by the namaazis.
We have also seen a gradual intensification of hate-mongering and allegations against the Muslim community in supposedly upmarket colonies. In Palam Vihar some years ago, a large derelict plot owned by the MCG where Muslims have been gathering for Ramzan prayers for the last several years was dug up and flooded to prevent the prayers. Residents were told that this was being done to prevent the entry of anti-socials from neighbouring villages who were posing a threat to women’s safety.
Friday Namaaz has been offered at all these venues continuously for the last several years without any trouble. There may indeed be traffic snarls at some of these places but dealing with these is the responsibility of the administration.
The Hindu organisations who are responsible for these attacks are misleading people and inciting hatred against Muslims on the basis of several completely unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations – that they are trying to occupy and erect mosques on empty plots, that they are illegal immigrants, that they are raising anti-national slogans, that they are trying to intimidate Hindus with a show of strength on Fridays. The bogey of “unknown outsiders” entering Hindu colonies in the guise of namaazis is also repeatedly being raised.
Most of the people who congregate for public namaaz on Fridays are workers in various industries and informal enterprises who have to find places close to their places of work to offer their prayers. They do not become outsiders simply because they reside in some other sector. Many workers come from other States. Nobody has the right to call them outsiders.
Concerned at this ugly development, citizens of Gurgaon held a meeting today. The meeting was attended by around a hundred people from several religious communities. The consensus was to avoid confrontation and to trust that the administration will solve the problem. It was decided that a delegation of senior people should meet the Deputy Commissioner to urge him to take action before the situation goes out of control. Some citizens volunteered to be physically present on Fridays at some of the namaaz venues to show solidarity with the worshippers and to offer satyagraha if they find the administration inactive or collusive with the attackers.
The statement issued by the Honourable Chief Minister on the 6th of May, although on expected lines is most unfortunate. Muslims cannot be asked to offer prayers at home or in mosques. Workers have to spend the day outside their homes. Does this mean that they cannot exercise their religious rights? It is ridiculous to expect Friday prayers to be organised only in mosques when there are only 60 mosques in the district and only 20 in the city of Gurgaon. If Hindus can organise their Bhagavati Jagaran, Navratra gtherings and Durga Pujas freely in public spaces, where is the rationale for preventing Muslims from offering prayers in open fields?
The Honourable Chief Minister sees this issue as a problem of law and order. But that is not all. His government and the administration also has the responsibility to ensure the right of all citizens to practise their religion – a right guaranteed by the Constitution. A clarification was later issued saying that open prayers can go on if no one objects. This is not going to help when every effort is being made to incite the local people into objecting. Misinformation is being spread through social media and leaflets. People who have allowed the use of their property for Friday prayers are being threatened into withdrawing permission.
As the Chief Secretary of the State you are in a position to provide responsible leadership to the district administration while at the same time ensuring that the Chief Minister is fully and properly briefed on the situation. We rely on you to do your best to ensure that the vigilante groups are brought under control and prevented from doing any further harm. We need hardly add that such vigilantism, unless immediately arrested, will seriously hurt the reputation of Gurgaon as an investment destination as well as its cosmopolitan image.
Copies of this letter are being endorsed to the Home Secretary and the DGP.
Sundar Burra IAS(Retd) Former Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra
Dr M A Ibrahimi IAS(Retd) Former Chief Secretary(Rank), Govt of Bihar
Harsh Mandar IAS(Retd) Govt of Madhya Pradesh
Amitabha Pande IAS(Retd) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
Venkatesh Ramani IAS(Retd) Former Director General YASHADA, Govt of Maharashtra
K Sujatha Rao IAS(Retd) Former Health Secretary, GoI
Aruna Roy IAS(Resigned)
Krishna Sahai IRS(Retd) Former Commissioner of Income Tax
Umrao Salodia IAS(Retd) Former Chmn Rajasthan Rd Transport Corpn
EAS Sarma IAS(Retd) Former Secretary DEA, Min of Finance, GoI
Ardhendu Sen IAS(Retd) Former Chief Sec Govt of West Bengal