New Delhi: Barely five months after a number of right-wing Hindu groups had disrupted the offering of namaz in several parts of Gurgaon –and Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, instead of taking strong measures, had justified their actions as legitimate protests – communal activism has resurfaced in the city.
On Wednesday, members of 22 Hindu groups went around the city and forced meat shops to shut down on account of Navaratri celebrations. While doing so, they not only terrorised several members of the minority community but were also seen slapping some meat traders who objected to their strong-arm tactics.
The forcible shutting down of meat businesses by these groups was a stark reminder of the manner in which they had similarly, in April and May, repeatedly disrupted the offering of namaz in various parts of the city. While the first disruption had taken place on April 20, another similar exercise was carried out two weeks later.
Khattar’s defence of namaz protests emboldened communal groups
Though the acts of these radical groups were clearly unconstitutional and criminal, Haryana chief minister had sought to lend legitimacy to them by stating that namaz should “ideally” be offered in mosques or at one’s home.
He had also stated that it should not be offered in the open if someone has an objection to it. “There has been an increase in the occurrence of namaz being offered at public places. It is fine until no one objects. But ideally, namaz should be offered in the precincts of a religious place or at one’s home,” Khattar was quoted as saying.
At the time, The Wire had noted how Khattar viewing the actions of the protesters as an instance of legitimate protest would only give a green signal to the communal hooligans in Haryana. And five months on, those fears have proved true.
Hindu groups come together for protest
Emboldened by the state patronage to their actions, activists belonging to 22 different Hindu organisation went around the city on Wednesday running their writ and demanding that all the meat shops remain closed during Navaratri, which began yesterday and would continue till October 18.
Coming together under the banner of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, Gurugram, the activists said they had decided to go about ensuring that all meat shops remain shut during the period since the district administration had not acted on their demand of enforcing this ban.
The demand for the meat ban had been made by the local unit of Shiv Sena. Its district president, Gautam Saini, went on the record to state that after the administration did not act, the organisation formed four teams of 125 members to enforce the decision. “If any shop opens during the festival, we would close it. If anything happens, we will take care of it,” he declared. The Samiti members said they had also approached the meat traders over the last weekend and urged them to keep their businesses closed over the festival period.
However, since this demand made no sense to the traders – as their livelihood depends on meat sale – none of the shops had ceded to it. But as word about the organised protests during the day spread, most of the meat shop owners downed their shutters. Seeing the huge groups of protesters, they were clearly perturbed by the turn of events. As one of the meat traders, Mohammad Yusuf, a resident of Sector 55, said: “I have been living in this area for the last 56 years and have been in the meat business for 44 years, but never before have I seen these kinds of protests.” He said that in order to avoid any confrontation, most of the shopkeepers have decided to close their shops.
Some meat traders were assaulted
In some places, the shop owners were also beaten up for resisting the closure move. News channels showed a man being slapped by an activist during the closure raids.
Incidentally, the action of the Hindutva activists had no sanction from either the local administration or the police.
Commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), Yashpal Yadav said no directions had been issued for the closure of meat shops during Navaratri. In fact, he added that no representation in this regard had been made to his office, which has powers in the matter. The appeal had only been made to the deputy commissioner of Gurugram administration, he pointed out.
What surprised many was that the Gurugram Police did not make any effort to enforce law and order by ensuring that radical elements were not able to take law into their own hands. Though several traders, like Tahir Qureshi of Sadar Bazar market, approached the police for assistance, the authorities only increased the patrolling but did not detain anyone.
Deputy commissioner of police (crime), Sumit Kuhar was quoted as saying that “We won’t let anyone forcefully close down any meat shop during Navaratri. If anyone wants to voluntarily close his shop, then it’s up to him.” He also insisted that all the SHOs have been instructed to ensure that there is no forcible closure of meat shops. However, the police had not detained anyone in connection with the day’s events.