Wednesday, 19 January, 2022
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In Gurugram namaz row, a dozen workers and two shops become collateral damage

Hindu Right-wing activists have left, so have the namazis who would offer prayers on this Sector 12 land in Gurugram. But those who lived in perfect harmony suffer now.

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The fallout of the ongoing row in Gurugram over namaz in public places has pushed at least two small businesses that are nearly 30 years old to the verge of closure. What is at stake are jobs of nearly a dozen workers, both Hindus and Muslims.

Protests by Hindu Right-wing groups against namaz in public places continued in Gurugram on Friday, with many local people objecting to prayers at a park in Sarhaul, Sector 12 A, forcing members of the Muslim community to move to a different location near Sheetla colony. According to a report, 50-100 people used to gather at the site to offer prayers. The row over namaz sites got bigger last month after police arrested 25 people, including members of Right-wing groups, who were trying to disrupt Friday prayers. Members of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, which comprises 22 local Right-wing outfits, along with BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Suraj Pal Amu, had performed Govardhan puja on the land in question last week. Another group of protesters said Friday it will erect a volleyball court on the land. Protests against namaz on designated public places has gained momentum in Gurugram with small Right-wing groups involved in such disruptions.

Also read: Some clerics think they are above Quran. It’s making Indian Muslims sectarian and backward

Humare pet pe laat pad gaya…Inka kuch nahi hua (it is us who have been hit hard, it doesn’t matter to those protesting),” said Ranjit Singh who works in a scrapyard on the land behind the contested HUDA property where the namaz controversy has been playing out for over three weeks now.

Kuch nahi bika hai dedh mahine se, ek paisa nahi bana paye hain (our business has virtually stopped since past six weeks. We haven’t been able to make a single penny),” said one of the shop owners, who requested anonymity fearing backlash.

A Muslim worker at one of the shops, who grew up in the locality, and whose father was friends with Singh, said religious identities were never an issue between them.

Ismail Khan, owner of one of the two furniture shops in Sector 12 A, passed away in May last year due to Covid. Ever since, the shop has been run by his son. Khan’s, as well as other furniture shops in Sarhaul were doing brisk business before the trouble over namaz began last month.

The land behind the contested public space is owned by a Hindu ‘panditji’, Pardeep Sharma, who had leased it out on rent to Khan. Sharma too received calls from Hindu Right-wing outfits who questioned him on his ‘understanding’ with the Muslim shop owner. Decades-old ties between neighbours were affected after the shops were asked to be vacated, and rent agreements, which were verbal, scrapped.

The shop owner quoted above said, “We had got new crockery for Diwali sale because that is when we conduct most business. But we have sold absolutely nothing this time. Everyone who passes by this road, points fingers at this space because of all the media-reporting and trouble. No one wants to buy anything.” The shops are now being torn down. The fear of being caught in the crossfire between two communities is too real for workers and shop owners.

Also read: The 2-men Hindu group that’s targeting sector after sector to bust namaz gatherings in Gurugram

Describing the equation enjoyed by those working in these shops and the scrapyard, Ranjit said,“Humne inko (the Muslim shopkeeper and his brother) bada hote dekha hai. Inhone shayad Muslim se zyada Hindu festivals attend kia hai (we have seen these men grow up before our eyes; they attend Hindu festivals more than their own)”.

“We are being vigilant now, that no miscreant causes damage to the site of Govardhan Puja. We are worried violence will erupt then, and we do not want to be caught in that,” said the shop owner.

The members of Hindu Right-wing groups have left, so have the namazis who would offer prayers on this piece of land — to their homes and basements. But it’s those who had always lived in perfect harmony who suffer now, paying the price with their businesses.

Pata nahi kya karenge. Ab zindagi bachi hai, toh kuch toh karenge hi. But yaha pe nahi (we do not know what we will do next. We will do something. But not here),” said the shopkeeper who hopes to keep the scrapyard intact but first needs to safeguard furniture from his shops. The ‘media circus’, as he referred to hordes of journalists who were reporting from the location last week, has made him realise that everyone will be too scared to come to their shops. It is time to move on, he said.

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