UP: Bajrang Dal Disrupts Muslim Prayers Held at a Private Property in Moradabad

Police served notices on 10 Muslims and have been asked to pay Rs 5 lakh each as a penalty for "disrupting peace" in the area.

New Delhi: Men associated with the Hindutva organisation Bajrang Dal protested against a group of Muslims offering prayers at a private warehouse in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad on Saturday, March 25.  

Police served notices on 10 Muslims present there under CrPC 107/116 (a preventive measure to preempt a breach of peace) and directed the Muslim family to whom the property belongs not to hold any group prayers. Police also asked the members of the Muslim community why should not they pay Rs 5 lakh each in penalty for “disturbing peace” in the area. This police action drew harsh criticism on social media.

Meanwhile, Moradabad SSP Hemraj Meena also sent out a message to people at large that no person has the right to interfere in the religious affairs of others. “If a person is offering Namaz, Taraweeh, or doing Pooja Paath, then some other party should have no objection to that. If someone indulges in such activities, then strict action shall be taken against them,” he said.

Meena asked Hindus and Muslims to maintain peace and asked them to celebrate their festivals peacefully without disturbing the harmony. Police later found that the controversy actually stemmed from an old property dispute involving the Muslim family. Both parties involved in the property dispute have been served notices.

According to a statement of the police, available on Twitter, one Zakir Hussain, who owns Zakir Iron Store at Lajpat Nagar Chowki in the Thana Katghar area, organised a programme to recite Taraweeh (Muslim prayers performed during the month of Ramzan, which includes recitation of Quran verses) on the third day of Ramazan. About 25-20 people participated in the programme. Police reached the spot after receiving information about protests by locals in the “Hindu-dominated/mixed population area”.

The police then, the statement said, told Muslims there to do such group programmes in “pre-marked religious places” as per tradition or individually at their homes. The owner of the property, Hussain, is said to have given in writing to police that he would not conduct such programmes at his home henceforth.

The Wire contacted Hussain for a comment, however, he was reluctant to elaborate on the incident. He merely said Ramzan Taraweeh prayers have been stopped and he does not want to create any controversy which could potentially vitiate the atmosphere. He declined to comment further.  

Meanwhile, Rohan Saxena, the president of Bajrang Dal’s Uttar Pradesh unit, said he would not let anyone create “new traditions”. “We have told the police that those who want to create new traditions [and] disrupt the peace of the city should be booked. We will not allow any new tradition,” he said in a video statement, available on social media. 

He also demanded the police to lodge a first information report (FIR) against thise “fomenting disharmony”. In the event of police failing to file an FIR, he said Bajrang Dal will hold protest demonstrations.

Last year, a similar incident took place in Moradabad when police filed charges against 26 Muslims for offering namaz allegedly in a public place. The FIR had been lodged under Section 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Chajlait police station. It was alleged that people were offering Namaz in public places to provoke and create enmity.

Media reports later showed that there were no Madarsa or mosques in the village and namaz was offered inside homes. The case was later withdrawn, and the police dismissed the allegations as false.