"Namaz yaha nahi hogi," a man shouts three times, as he interrupts an elderly Muslim man walking towards the Namaz site in Gurugram sector 37 on the afternoon of 3 December. Soon, two policemen catch hold of him, and remove him from there, putting him inside a bus parked nearby.
This is not the first time this man has interrupted prayers by the Muslim community in Gurugram. Dinesh Bharti, a 48-year-old self-proclaimed leader of a right-wing outfit called Bharat Mata Vahini, has been at the forefront of protests in Gurugram, demanding that Muslims not pray at the open sites.
As per a report in The Wire, Bharat Mata Vahini is affiliated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). On 3 December, Bharti was arrested by Gurugram Police.
Gurugram Police PRO Subhash Boken told The Quint that "It's a preventive arrest as he has done similar things in the past too." It is to be noted that no FIR has been filed against Bharti so far. Boken said that the action was taken under section 107 and 151 of the CrPc.
The Wire reports that Bharti has been arrested at least four times in the last one year for disrupting Friday prayers in Gurugram.
The 48-year-old is a businessman who deals in construction material, and is a self-proclaimed "warrior of justice” for the Hindu faith. His Facebook page has a minuscule following of 1,125.
Leads an Outfit That Stands up against ‘Jihad'
On 22 October, members of Hindutva groups Bajrang Dal and the VHP gathered at a ground in Sector 12, Gurugram. Just when over 150 Muslims were offering their Friday prayers, the outfits allegedly (if we were there and we saw it, we shouldn't say allegedly -- should check our news reports or of other portals) played bhajans on speakers and chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai.’
Since March, Bharti has been visiting namaz sites in Delhi and disrupting their sessions, as per a report in The Wire. He was arrested on 8 August this year from Delhi's Jantar Mantar, where there were calls to boycott.
His outfit, Bharat Mata Vahini, comprises two members — Bharti himeslf, and a 29-year-old auto-rickshaw driver called Naresh Thakur. The outfit claims to speak up against different forms of "Jihad" — from "love Jihad" to "land Jihad" and "Biryani Jihad." It's important to note that phrases such as "love jihad" are slurs used by the Hindu right-wing outfits.
Rallies for Support on Social Media
Hailing from Rohtak, Bharti has been residing in Gurugram since 1997. As per a report in The Print, he was a member of the Gurugram unit of the BJP, and was previously in-charge of stage decorations during rallies in the area.
He calls himself ‘Dinesh Bharti Bharat Mata Vahini’ on social media and has been aggressively campaigning against namaz being offered in the open spaces. Bharti, as expected, repeats the same allegations that other members and leaders of Hindu right-wing groups do — that "agenda of Muslims is to takeover the world," and that "it is his duty to keep alive the Hindu ideals," as per a report in the The Wire.
He rallies for support for his protests through social media, where till a few months ago he had a negligible presence
The Muslim community in Gurugram has stated that there are only a few mosques in the city that can be used to offer Namaz, and that's why open spaces are used. As per a report in The Print, in 2018, after several protests, the administration reduced the number of designated sites to 37 from 106.
While Bharti has alleged that he visited these areas following complaints from Hindu residents, media reports have suggested that no such complaints were made.
A few Muslim residents told The Print that he would try to convince the Hindus to join in his “hatred-fuelled protest” and has even “turned up with sticks and axes in his car”.
Bharti was first arrested on 16 April this year. He was booked under IPC sections of promoting disharmony, enmity or feelings of hatred after a local cleric approached Gurugram police. He was again arrested on 30 September for posing a threat to law and order of an area.
He was released on 5 October and arrested again on 15 October. He was then released on 23 October.
(With inputs from The Scroll and The Print)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)