Incredible Uttar Pradesh: Khudai Khidmatgar convenor in jail for offering Namaz in temple
A singer of Tulsi Ramayan and bhajans, Faisal Khan has been in jail for the past one month. His crime: offering prayers in the campus of a temple in Mathura
Not many in India, certainly not Hindu priests, policemen and magistrates, are familiar with the name or work of Faisal Khan. But a moving appeal this week by Rajmohan Gandhi, historian and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, made people sit up and take notice.
Faisal Khan (45) was arrested by UP Police in early November following a complaint lodged by the priest of Nandadurbar temple in Mathura. His grouse: Khan had offered afternoon prayers (Namaz) in the temple campus and a video of he and a companion Md Chand offering Namaz had gone viral.
Khan, a Pathan, is the national convenor of KhudaiKhidmatgar (Servants of God), the organization that Frontier Gandhi had started in 1929. Khan revived it in 2011 and has been working for education, communal harmony and peace. KhudaiKhidmatgar sources claim Khan had undertaken a pilgrimage, the ChaurasiKosi parikrama over 84 Kms, and had concluded the pilgrimage at the Nandadurbar temple. He had sought a place to offer his afternoon prayers and people there told him that the temple too was a place of God and he could offer prayers there.
Khan in 2013 had led a “Dil Jodo Nafrat Choro” journey to bridge Hindu and Muslim hearts, travelling with a band of activists in a Tata van from a Sufi shrine in Panipat, Haryana, to Haridwar, Uttaranchal. The same year, he had toured riot-hit villages in Muzzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims had staged a mass exodus. The Haryana unit built a cow shelter in a village in Karnal to “remove the misunderstandings between Hindus and Muslims over cow slaughter”. Anti-liquor marches in Tamil Nadu, regular street meetings and discussions in open, public places have been some of the activities they initiated.
Sendhil Kumar, a human resources professional and one of the coordinators in South India told an interviewer, “In our country, there are places where Hindus and Muslims don’t mingle together. They are suspicious of each other. I joined Khidmatgar in late 2011 to fight against this religious separation.
The police action against Faisal Khan is in sharp contrast with the authorities’ response to the Hindu JagaranManch’s act of conducting Shiva puja on the Taj Mahal’s premises on October 25. “Our intention was good. We have been taking out sadbhavana yatras (communal harmony marches) for the past 20 years and we offer namaz wherever we go. We also sing bhajans (devotional Hindu songs) at many places. I apologise to those who felt hurt because of our action,” he said to the local media after his arrest.
Kanha Goswami, a priest at the temple, said: “After offering namaz, Faisal met me. When I reacted against his action, he also offered prayers before the Hindu gods and recited aloud many couplets from the Ramayan and other Hindu scriptures. I didn’t like them making viral videos of the namaz. Had they also posted the videos of their prayers before the Hindu gods, I wouldn’t have registered a complaint.”
Anand Giri, a sadhu from the Niranjani Akhara in Mathura, and a few others had threatened a protest if the group members were not arrested. Pawan Yadav, the spokesperson for KhudaiKhidmatgar, in a statement said, “We focus to counter any forms of religious extremism in this society. Many Hindu religious institutions have appreciated and acknowledged the work of Faisal Khan for his uncompromising work for peace and brotherhood.”