Gurgaon: Mangiram Sharma sits in his tailoring shop at Gurugram’s Bhora Kalan village, discussing what transpired Wednesday night. As he sees his old friend Sammu Khan walking past, he asks him to take his newly stitched kurta-pyjama and offers him a beedi. Sammu says he doesn’t want it from him, and walks to the nearby shop to smoke. Mangiram yells at him and throws his beedi packet. “Today he is showing attitude,” Mangiram tells the people standing nearby.
There’s a mixed mood at the village that allegedly witnessed a mob of 200 people surrounding the premises of a mosque Wednesday, with some 10-12 of them going inside in an attempt to vandalise it. Purportedly, the mob also threatened the Muslim residents of the village with expulsion.
It’s 2.45 pm Friday, and just a couple of minutes ago, right after jumma namaz (Friday prayers), two police constables asked four-five people coming out of the unnamed purana dak ghar ke paas wala masjid (the masjid near the old post office) to head home. Soon, two Hindu men start heckling one of the namazis, inquiring which village is he from and what is he doing there.
The argument turns heated as one of the namazis says it hurts their feelings when Hindus ask them these questions. “Ask us, not our relatives. We can see why you are standing here,” an elderly Muslim man says. The two constables disperse the crowd and bring the situation under control. Meanwhile, the elderly man says, “Ignore them (the Hindu men), they are high”.
For some, Wednesday’s incident wasn’t “communal” but rather, “mischief” perpetrated by a few drunk men, while others say it was about local politics.
There are also some who say it was a fight over a land dispute dating back to the 1800s. There’s no clarity on the ownership of the land and the structure (mosque) on it. Both the Hindu and Muslim communities claim they have the ownership documents of the “disputed land”.
The ruckus allegedly broke out after Muslims in the village — there are four Muslim families out of a total population of around 300 — started renovating the mosque. Local Hindus claim the Muslims were trying to take over the land and expand the structure in the garb of renovation.
Even though an FIR was lodged against 8-10 people from the village under Indian Penal Code sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 295A (malicious acts to outrage religious feelings), 323 (causing hurt), and 506 (criminal intimidation), no arrests have been made so far.
Harinder Kumar, assistant commissioner of police (Pataudi) tells ThePrint that the matter has been settled and hence no arrests have been made. “Both communities have assured one another that peace will be maintained,” he adds.
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Broken chairs inside the mosque premises bear testimony to the clash that occurred Wednesday night. Eighty-year-old Umaid Khan and 70-year-old Asarfi Khan were allegedly injured in the clash. Asarfi has a bandage wrapped around her left hand, while Umaid says he can’t move his arms and is in immense pain.
Recalling the incident, Asarfi says, “We came to know that a mob was trying to vandalise the mosque and hitting our family members. Women and children also reached there. They also hit us with sticks and one of them pushed me”.
Nazar Mohammed, the village resident who lodged the FIR over Wednesday’s incident, is a former Army subedar (retired in 2006) who fought in the Kargil War. “I have taken a bullet for my motherland and these notorious goons wanted to expel me from my village,” he says.
“On Wednesday morning, Rajesh Chauhan, Anil Bhaduria and Sanjay Vyas came to the mosque at around 11 am and started enquiring about the renovation. Things were brought under control then, but at around 8 pm when people were offering namaz, a mob of 200 people with sticks and guns entered the mosque and started hitting the namazis. They are from the village itself, and are a bunch of notorious drunkards who wanted to create chaos. Muslim men and women were dragged and pushed, and it has left some of them injured,” Mohammed said.
Notably, Chauhan is contesting the upcoming sarpanch elections, and some Hindu and Muslim residents of the village are of the opinion that this is a “political” incident.
Dr Taj Mohammed says, “This (Wednesday’s incident) happened in light of the upcoming sarpanch elections. They just needed an issue and Muslims are the victim here.”
According to current village sarpanch Yajvinder, “Everyone knows that things get heated in politics but I can’t comment on whether the elections had anything to do with it.”
“Some mischievous men from the village were warned last night (Thursday) and both communities agreed on maintaining peace. These children are always intoxicated.”
Talking about the renovation work, he says , “The rain water was entering the place where they offer namaz, so they built a roof.”
However, Chauhan says, “That is not a masjid. It is a room. It is like an Eid Gaah, that’s all. This has nothing to do with the elections”.
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Masjid or not, and whose land is it?
Several other Hindus echo Chauhan’s claims that the structure isn’t a masjid.
“How is this one room a masjid? Only their family members from this village are allowed to perform prayers here. They are calling it a masjid because they want donations,” claims Shravan Kumar, a village resident.
He shows ThePrint a handwritten paper, dating back to 2013, which states that only Muslim families of the village will offer namaz in the room near the mazar (shrine) and no one from the Hindu community will offer prasad etc. at the shrine.
Residents say similar chaos broke out in 2013 as well.
Manish Saini, another resident, says, “Hindus and Muslims have lived here in harmony for a long time. In 2013, they called around 1,000 people here to offer namaz, and then the chaos started”.
Ravi Kumar, a resident of the village, claims the land was in the name of his grandfather Umrao Singh, and then passed on to him from his father. Other Hindus make similar claims, saying the land belongs to Kumar’s family and the matter is about encroachment.
“The land belongs to Baniya Seth — Ravi Kumar’s family. The land was empty. Salima, a Muslim encroached on the land, and used to keep his livestock there. He sold the land to some other Muslim family without Kumar’s knowledge. Initially, they were paying rent but later they took over the whole property. Kumar has been trying to get it back for a long time. This entire village is on lal dora (red tape) land,” says Neeraj Chauhan, another resident.
Kumar himself makes similar claims, but says he doesn’t know of any Salima. And unlike the rest of the villagers of both communities who say Muslims have been offering namaz at the site for over a decade, Kumar says he had never seen anyone praying there before Tuesday.
On the other hand, Sultan Khan and other Muslim villagers claim the land belongs to his family — his brothers Abdul Hamid and Asghar Khan, and father Umaid Khan. “Salima sold the land to our father. It has always belonged to the Muslim community here. They (Kumar’s family) have fake documents,” Khan says. Salima’s family, villagers say, moved to Pataudi after his demise.
Although there are differing opinions over the ownership of the land the mosque stands on, and how long Muslims have been offering namaz there, the only thing the two communities agree upon is that there has been a mazar (shrine) of a Sayyed Peer Baba there since the 1800s, where both Muslims and Hindus offered homage.
There are two tales among some elderly villagers — one where a Hindu man back in the 1800s gave Sayyed Peer Baba his place to live him and then made the mazar, and the other that Kumar’s ancestors were caretakers of the mazar and both Muslims and Hindus passed on the land as their own to their heirs.
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