Muslims in Saharanpur say ruckus by some youths unjustifiable, but decry incarceration of those innocent
In last 48 hours, almost entire Muslim community in Saharanpur has gone through tremendous stress. Every young man felt arrest was impending, while many people felt that community was being victimized
In Uttar Pradesh, Saharanpur is considered as a bastion of Muslims, economically, socially and politically. But the situation currently here is such that there is only despair among the Muslims.
The ruckus here on Friday following protests demanding the arrest of former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and the subsequent police action has left the Muslim community torn apart. Saharanpur has a 38 percent Muslim population. But the morale of the community is at a very low ebb.
The developments on Friday, which saw a frenzied crowd hitting the streets have left the community distressed. After the Friday prayers, the crowd went to Ghantaghar Marg and passed through Nehru Market, which did not augur well. The local administration and experts say that this should not have happened.
The mischievous elements in the crowd tried to vandalize the Nehru Market. They knocked down bikes parked on the roadside and tried to enter the shops. When the police started hitting them with sticks to disperse them, they started pelting stones on them.
Iqbal Ahmed, who runs a tailor's shop in Nehru Market, says that the way some youths in the crowd behaved was disgraceful. It seemed that they had come only to create trouble, he said.
Saharanpur Police has so far arrested 84 alleged miscreants, which, the police says, was done on the basis of videography. But these include more than a dozen such youths and teenagers who are studying, and their families believe that they were not guilty.
In the last 48 hours, almost the entire Muslim community in Saharanpur has gone through a tremendous stress. Every young man felt arrest was impending, while many people felt that the community was being victimized.
The religious and political leadership of Saharanpur completely failed to prevent the crowd taking to the streets after offering Friday prayers or to save the innocent from arrest. The situation is such that even the public representatives of Muslims have not raised their voices.
The MP and three MLAs in this district are Muslims. These include Ashu Malik, Umar Ali Khan – the son-in-law of Ahmad Bukhari, Imam of Delhi Shahi Jama Masjid – and Legislative Council member Shahnawaz Khan, who has been recently elected. Haji Fazrul Rehman is the MP from Saharanpur.
The Masood family, which led politics here for several decades, is now no longer active, with the only political post held by it being Noman Masood's wife Shazia Masood who is a member of Gangoh Municipality.
On Saturday, under the leadership of MP Fazrul Rahman, some Muslim leaders had appealed to the DM Akhilesh Singh and SSP Akash Tomar not to send innocent people to jail, but they insisted it was being done on the basis of videography.
However, it is being alleged that many of those who have been arrested and sent to jail are innocent. The viral video of police assaulting people of the community detained in Saharanpur too has sent out a very negative message. Danish Khan, a resident of Rampur, has petitioned the Human Rights Commission to take cognisance of it.
Whatever happened on Friday last week in Saharanpur was waiting to happen. Its foundation was laid by Alwida Jumma. Saharanpur is a religious city, and religiously very sensitive. It is a major center of Islamic learning. Big madrasas like Deoband Darul Uloom and Mazhir Uloom are located here in which more than 50,000 students are studying. Saharanpur is considered to be inhabited by Shaikh Shah Haroon Chishti.
There was an Eid-like atmosphere in Saharanpur on the day of Juma. Most of the people of the Muslim community did not go to work and started preparing for Namaz since the morning. It may sound unbelievable, but in the process of securing a place to attend the one o'clock Friday prayer in the month of Ramzan, the Jama Masjid starts gathering at 9 in the morning.
This time, thousands of Namazis had to return without being able to offer prayers due to lack of space in the mosque. Further, the police did not allow them to offer Namaz on the road.
People have also been resentful due to removal of loudspeakers for Azaan. People living in the vicinity of Jama Masjid say that it used to give them spiritual comfort. Now, it is barely audible and they go to offer Namaz after checking their watches.
Mohsin Ahmed, a local resident, says that a lot of tension had also been brewing within the community due to the govt’s failure to arrest BJP’s now-suspended spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made controversial remarks against Prophet Mohammed. This finally erupted in an ugly manner despite calls by elders to maintain peace.