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Rajasthan Polls: Killing of a Muslim Youth Exposes Jaipur's Communal Fault Lines

In Jaipur, killing of 17-year-old Iqbal has divided the BJP Vs Congress election debate along religious lines.

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"They killed my son. I want justice," Nayeema Parveen, 34, repeated these sentences in loop, as she sat inside her home in Jaipur's Ramganj area on a cold October evening.

"He was returning from his nani's house along with his younger brother when they attacked him. They cracked open his skull and kept abusing him throughout, calling him a miyan...," Parveen alleged as she burst into tears.

On 29 September, her eldest son Mohammad Iqbal, 17, succumbed to his injuries in Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Hospital after he was attacked by a mob following an accident near city's Subhash Chowk area.

An FIR was registered at the Subhash Chowk Police Station on 30 September under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (carrying deadly weapons), 149 (unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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In Jaipur, killing of 17-year-old Iqbal has divided the BJP Vs Congress election debate along religious lines.

Mohammad Iqbal's parents at their home in Jaipur's Ramganj.

(Photo: Himanshi Dahiya/The Quint)

As per the FIR, filed on the basis of a complaint by Iqbal's brother Alfaiz, a mob of '10-15 people' surrounded the scooter he and his brother were riding and started 'beating them with rods and sticks'. While Alfaiz managed to escape, they continued beating Iqbal till police arrived and took him to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

While the FIR was registered against unknown people, Alfaiz named Lakhan Mehra, Rahul Mehra, Nikhil, and Aditya in his complaint.

Jaipur Police then detained 15 people in connection with the case. While nine of them were released, six were subsequently arrested by the police.

"Do you think this will stop here? Now whenever my children step out, I get anxious. What if somebody asks them their names and then kills them just because they're Muslim," Parveen told The Quint.

Protests and Counter Protests in Jaipur

After the incident, the Congress government in Rajasthan, offered a compensation of Rs 50 Lakh to the family and gave a contractual government job to Iqbal's younger brother Mohammad Adnan.

This, however, led to protests by the Hindu side in the city.

"This was a case of road rage. There is no proof of it being a communal crime," said Laxmikant Bharadwaj, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson based in Jaipur.

In Jaipur, killing of 17-year-old Iqbal has divided the BJP Vs Congress election debate along religious lines.

BJP Spokesperson Laxmikant Bharadwaj.

(Photo: Himanshi Dahiya/The Quint)

"People from the Muslim community used this incident to create unrest in Jaipur. It was after their protests that Congress MLAs Rafiq Khan and Amin Kagzi met Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and asked him to sanction Rs 50 Lakhs as compensation to the family along with a government job. Does the Rajasthan government give such compensation to families of everybody who is murdered?
Laxmikant Bharadwaj, BJP Spokesperson

In 2019, Rajasthan became the second state in India after Madhya Pradesh to enact the anti-mob lynching law. It provided life imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh to convicts in cases of mob lynching involving the victim’s death. The law also prescribed compensation for victims or their families as per the Rajasthan Victim Compensation Scheme.

Hazi Nizamuddin, social activist and General Secretary of the Rajasthan Haj Welfare Society, said that the BJP was deliberately trying to "polarise the situation ahead of elections" by making this a case of road accident.

"There are eyewitnesses and CCTV cameras which prove that he (Iqbal) was targeted after the accused asked him his name. What does that mean?" he questioned.

In Jaipur, killing of 17-year-old Iqbal has divided the BJP Vs Congress election debate along religious lines.

Haji Nizamuddin, a social activist based in Jaipur.

(Photo: Himanshi Dahiya/The Quint)

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Communal Fault Lines in Rajasthan

As per the 2011 census, Muslims constitute approximately 9 percent of Rajasthan's population.

According to a recent report by Washington-based research group Hindutva Watch, Rajasthan along with Madhya Pradesh was on third position in the list of states in India which recorded most number of anti-Muslim hate speech in the first half of 2023.

Over the last five years, the state has witnessed several instances of rioting and communal flare up.

In May 2022, internet services were suspended and tensions gripped Bhilwara after a Hindu man was allegedly killed by a Muslim over a family dispute. Around the same time, curfew was ordered in parts of Jodhpur after communal tension broke out in the city, leading to stone pelting. The dispute reportedly started over the removal of a Hindu flag and the installation of a Muslim flag at the Jalori Gate intersection in the city. In April 2022, communal clashes erupted in Karauli after a bike rally by Hindutva outfits allegedly met with a stone-pelting incident as they passed through a market in the area.

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Elections and Voter Impact

As the 2023 elections draw close, several communally charged statements are being made by politicians in the state.

For instance, in Alwar districts's Tijara constituency, a video of BJP leader Sandeep Dayma surfaced in which he could be heard saying that gurdwaras mushrooming in the area, were set to become an "ulcer" and that it was required of the BJP to "uproot" them. After backlash over his statement he released a video "apology". In the apology, Dayma said, "...in place of masjid-madrasa, I mistakenly ended up using some wrong words about the Gurdwara Saheb. I seek apology with folded hands from the entire Sikh community." He was subsequently removed from the party.

In Jaipur, the BJP has fielded seer Bal Mukund Acharya as their candidate from the Hawa Mahal constituency. This, amid widespread allegations of forced Hindu migration from the area by BJP leaders.

Acharya recently shot to fame on social media for his campaign to 'save Jaipur's Hindu temples'.

In addition to party candidates delivering speeches coloured in communal tones, top leaders from BJP as well as Congress talk about rioting and communal incidents regularly in their speeches.

For instance, on 14 November, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that the killers of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal were 'BJP people' and that the BJP was raking up the issue to whip up tensions ahead of the polls.

Udaipur-based tailor Kanhaiya Lal was murdered allegedly by two Muslim men over a Facebook post supporting former BJP leader Nupur Sharma's controversial remarks against the Prophet.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while campaigning in Chittorgarh had referred to the incident to point out state Congress government's law and order failure. "What happened in Udaipur was unimaginable. They came with the excuse of getting their clothes stitched and slit the tailor's throat," the PM said.

(With inputs by Mahesh Chaudhary.)

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