New Delhi: Friday prayers for two Kashmiri students in the Central University of Haryana (CUH) and four Muslim daily wage labourers turned into a nightmare when they were attacked by a mob.
In three separate incidents, the six were rounded up by mobs in different areas of Mahendragarh, Haryana on February 2, 2018. All of them had gone to the mosque to offer the afternoon namaz.
Attack on Kashmiri students
The first incident happened in Masani Chowk when at around 2.30 pm, Aftab Ahmad and Amjad Ali, who belong to Rajouri in Jammu and are now enrolled in the geography department of CUH, were on their way back from the nearest mosque in Mahendragarh town, around 11 kilometres away from the university, when a group of 10-15 motorbike-borne men abused and attacked them..
According to Ahmad, the attack was unprovoked. “My friend and I had gone to the mosque to offer namaz yesterday. Just after we left the mosque and were heading towards our bike, we were assaulted by a mob. We asked them why were we being targeted but they didn’t say anything and just kept hitting us. We asked people for help but nobody intervened. It’s shameful how everyone just stood there and watched while the mob attacked us with bricks and helmets,” an India Today report quoted Ahmad as saying.
Rehan Andrabi, an MA sociology student in the university, told The Wire that the two were attacked in front of a tailor shop near the mosque.“Since the university is in the outskirts of the town, students have to go to Mahendragarh to purchase most items of daily use. They, too, had gone to the town similarly. After the prayer, when they made their way to a nearby tailor shop on Aftab’s motorbike, they saw a group of 10-15 men on their bikes following them. Within minutes, the group snatched their helmets and started hitting them. The men also had bricks with which they hit Ahmad and Ali. The crowd just stood and watched the incident.”
The students sustained several injuries in an attack that allegedly lasted more than five minutes in a crowded street.
A student claimed that after the mob fled, the police arrived at the scene and took Ahmad and Ali to the hospital. When the two approached the university authorities, they asked them to file the complaint where the incident occurred. He said that the police filed an FIR only at 11:30 in the night after initial some hesitation.
There are around 50 Kashmiri students enrolled in the CUH. Taking note of the incident, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted on Friday:
Shocked & disturbed to hear reports of Kashmiri students being assaulted in Mahendargarh, Haryana. I urge the authorities to investigate & take strict action. @mlkhattar
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) February 2, 2018
Mufti’s intervention, the Kashmiri students alleged, prompted the Haryana police to file an FIR. The police have reportedly registered a case under section 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntary causing hurt) of the India Penal Code in the Mahendergarh police station. Three people have been arrested by the police until now.
CUH was in the centre of a controversy when right-wing groups in 2016 had created a ruckus over the staging of a Mahasweta Devi’s play in the university. The right-wing protests in the university had spilled over to Mahendragarh town where Sangh parivar activists had tried to mobilise opinion against the so-called “anti-national” activities in the campus.
However, since then, no communal incident had been reported.
Attack on daily wage workers
A faculty member, who spoke to The Wire on the condition of anonymity, said that the attack may have larger communal overtones.
“There were reports of some Muslim workers from Bengal and Bihar also facing similar attacks on Friday. While the attack on Kashmiri students was highlighted, I think the mob had planned to attack Muslims in general who were returning to their respective places of work after the jumma prayers. It appears to be a pre-planned attack as the group of attackers were waiting for people to come out from the mosque.”
At least four workers were attacked on February 2 – two near Bahadur Kothi and two near Ram Vilas Kothi in Mahendragarh market. Mukul Sheikh, a brick kiln contractor confirmed that two of his workers were beaten with stones. “After they left the mosque, a group of five to seven people surrounded them and attacked them with stones. The attackers left after five minutes. My workers were so shocked that they came running to me. I got them some medicines. But they are now so scared to leave the factory premises. Since yesterday they have been crying, asking me how will they go out to buy items of their daily use,” Sheikh told The Wire.
Sheikh also said that two other construction workers – one from Uttar Pradesh and one from Rajasthan – were attacked in a similar fashion near Ram Vilas Kothi of the town. “Both are now admitted in the government hospital,” he said.
Perhaps, because of a series of such incidents, Mahendragarh’s deputy superintendent of police has denied any “Kashmir angle” behind the attack. “The students were not targeted because of their identity,” he told News18. But he could not specify why the students were attacked.
According to a report in The Hindu, Haryana’s director general of police, B.S. Sandhu said: “A case has been registered and we have set-up a SIT under inspector general of police C.S. Roy to probe the incident.”
The incidents in Mahendragarh are the latest in a series of attacks on Muslims in north India. The attacks on Kashmiris, especially students, have been rising too in the last few years.
As recently as 31 January, a group of 24 Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology (SKUAST) students had alleged that they were unnecessarily harassed by a co-passenger on a train and later by the Madhya Pradesh police when they boarded a New Delhi-bound train from Bhopal.
A co-passenger allegedly asked them “why Kashmiris in such a large number were travelling in the train”, clicked their photographs and later tweeted them with the caption ‘Dozens of Kashmiris carrying a bomb in Delhi-bound Bhopal train’.
The students alleged that one of the students was paraded by the Madhya Pradesh police and one among them, Mohammad Idress from south Kashmir’s Anantnag, was produced before a court and sent to judicial custody.
Responding to the incident, National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister had tweeted.
This hyper-nationalism built around the propaganda that all Kashmiris are terrorists & stone pelters will drive young Kashmiris further away from the national mainstream.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 3, 2018
Similarly, in 2016, some students of Kashmir were attacked in a private engineering college in Jhajjar.