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Gurugram Namaz Row: Right Wing Claiming Victory Using RSS-Backed Muslim Orgs?

The right-wing groups' claims of "Muslims agreeing" to stop offering namaz in open spaces has several tangents.

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Gurugram Namaz Row: Right Wing Claiming Victory Using RSS-Backed Muslim Orgs?
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"The Sanyukta Hindu Sangharsh Samiti (SHSS) had been working for the past four years in order to stop namaz being offered at public places. The issue transformed into a people's movement. The Imam Sangathan and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) have now agreed and declared before the media that namaz will not be offered in open spaces in Gurugram," said Mahavir Bhardwaj in a video message that was being widely shared on social media.

Bhardwaj is the Haryana state chief of the SHSS, an umbrella body of various right-wing Hindu groups, including the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.

If one goes by Bhardwaj's version, it would seem as if the dispute over namaz being offered in open spaces in Gurugram, that has seen unrest at several praying sites since September, is settled.

The SHSS has also claimed "victory" in the matter on several occasions. However, the claim of "Muslims agreeing" to stop offering namaz in open spaces has several tangents.
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Have Gurugram's Muslims 'Agreed' To Not Offer Namaz in Open Spaces?

It is worthy to note that the MRM, a body which Bhardwaj claims has agreed to not offer namaz in open spaces, is actually an arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

It was formed in 2002 by then RSS chief KS Sudarshan.

MRM National Convener Khurshid Rajaka had addressed the media on 10 December after a meeting with the administration and right-wing groups, and said that prayers would not be offered at the designated places due to the controversy.

Further, Imam Sangathan, a part of this meeting, had submitted a list of six places that they needed on a temporary basis till the time they get back the properties belonging to the Waqf Board.

However, two days later on 8 December, the Gurgaon Muslim Council (GMC) slammed the claimed "settlement" and registered their protest at DC Yash Garg’s office. The group, along with approximately 100 residents, submitted a memorandum to Garg calling the agreement “absolutely fraudulent.” The GMC also questioned the credibility of the MRM as a "RSS-backed body."
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Asked about the reason behind the MRM agreeing to the demands of the Hindu right-wing groups, Rajaka told The Quint: "We just feel that the priority of the Hindus and Muslims of Gurugram should be to maintain peace. Nobody can stop anybody from offering either pooja or namaz. But it should be done within the ambits of the law. Everybody was on the same page about ending the dispute. There can't be prayer where there's dispute. That prayer does not mean anything. That's why the MRM decided to uphold peace and with everybody's consent, namaz should not be offered in open spaces."

Commenting on the claims of giving in to the right-wing propaganda because of MRM's RSS affiliation, Rajaka said that the decision was taken solely to "uphold law and order" and not under pressure.

"The ones who are blaming us of being in cahoots with the RSS, I don't think they fully understand the law. Whatever decision the MRM has taken, it is within the ambits of the laws of the country and the laws of Islam. This is not a personal decision or ideology. For now, we have gotten the administration to let us retain six sites. If the other group is able to convince the administration and get more sites approved, well and good. We have no objection," Rajaka said.

Rajaka further refuted the possibility of the protests from the Hindutva side stemming from the intention to target the Muslim community. However, Rajaka's claims contradict the reality on ground for several months where protests have been marred by communally charged anti-Muslim slogans and demonstrations at namaz sites.

On 5 November, a day after Diwali, a Govardhan pooja was also organised by the SHSS at Sector 12A namaz site. Senior VHP leader Surendra Jain, who was one of the chief guests at the event, made statements like "the ones who want to offer namaz in open spaces should go to Pakistan" and "Muslims should not have so many children if there isn't space to offer Friday prayers."

In a protest by right-wing groups on 10 December at the Sector 37 namaz site, the protesters also raised the slogan, "Na mullon ka na Qazi ka, ye desh hai Veer Shivaji ka!"

Rajaka himself has been closely associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He was also the chairperson of the Mewat Development Authority (MDA).

Rajaka addressing a BJP event

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/Khurshid Rajaka)

Rajaka with senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar

(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Khurshid Rajaka)

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The 'Imam Sangathan' That Backs MRM

It is noteworthy that the 'Imam Sangathan' was formed only after the protests against namaz in open spaces gained momentum in the past few weeks.

Asked about the credibility of the body to represent all Muslims of Gurugram, Rajaka said: "When this issue got politicised, the Imams formed a sangathan (organisation). The imams said that it is their responsibility to conduct namaz. They wanted no politics over namaz, so they decided that the Sangathan will decide where and how namaz is conducted. These decisions were then taken in the presence of district administration, Hindu groups and the imams."

Altaf Ahmad, spokesperson of the Gurgaon Muslim Council while speaking to The Quint slammed the Imam Sangathan and the MRM, saying that they do not represent the Muslims of Gurugram.

"They have created this small 'Imam Sangathan' and they (MRM) are backing it because they feel that putting three or four imams from Gurugram in the body will make them representatives of the city. As far as the Muslim community of Gurgaon is concerned, there is only one body – the Gurgaon Muslim Council – which represents all the Muslims of Gurgaon. As far as MRM is concerned it is very clear to everyone it’s an RSS extension," he said.

Ahmad further said that be it an Imam or an ordinary Muslim, prayers can be conducted by anybody according to Islam and that the Imam Sangathan's diktat does not necessarily mean that all Muslims will have to follow it.

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Administration, Police Gave In to Right-Wing Pressure?

On 30 November, the Jamait Ulama-i-Hind filed a complaint against three leaders of the Hindu right-wing groups for allegedly making inflammatory speeches over the Friday namaz issue.

Along with Mahavir Bharadwaj, the complaint has accused Dinesh Bharti, and Kulbhushan Bhardwaj of "promoting enmity against Islam" and deliberately making provocative statements over the matter in an attempt to spread disharmony.

However, two weeks since the complaint was submitted, the police is yet to turn it into a First Information Report (FIR).

The Gurgaon Muslim Council has alleged that the police and the administration "failed" to do its part of not letting the right-wing groups have an upper hand.

"They are singing to the tunes of right-wing groups under the pressure of current state government. The chief minister himself over a month back had agreed that people should be allowed to offer namaz at designated places approved by the administration. Now he says that namaz sites that were allotted have now been cancelled and let’s start all over again," Ahmad said.

Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar on 10 December said that namaz in open spaces will "not be tolerated."

“Religious places are built for such purposes (offering prayers) so that prayers are offered there. Such practices should not take place in the open. This practice of offering namaz prayers here in the open, this will not be tolerated," Khattar had said.

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Muslim Factions on the Same Page Over Need for More Mosques

While Rajaka said that the number of places have been officially reduced to six by the administration, Ahmad refuted the claim saying that other than the six sites, namaz is still being offered at other places.

However, both were on the same page on the issue of lack of mosques, idgahs, or praying sites for Muslims in New Gurugram.

"As far as the question of where will Muslims pray? is concerned, that issue needs to be sorted by the people of the community themselves. The government does not construct temples or mosques for anybody. The Muslim population is rising so we must focus on building more prayer sites and mosques rather than blaming the government and administration," Rajaka said.

"The administration has given six sites for now on temporary basis. But it is not the administration's job to build mosques or temples for anybody. The Muslim community needs to take that initiative. Moreover, the Waqf Board of Haryana, which takes these responsibilities, should actively come forward to help. They should utilise Waqf Board lands to construct idgahs and mosques," he added.

The GMC too has been raising the issue of lack of praying sites and has demanded that all the administration must help vacate all the Waqf Board lands that have been encroached upon.

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Topics:  Gurugram Namaz Row 

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Edited By :Tejas Harad
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