November  2001 
Cover Story

‘Who says we are free citizens?’

Nazir Mohammad

A businessman from Jahazpur

On July 16 this year in Jahazpur, two mazaars, those of Mithanlai Rehemtulla and Syedali Rehemtulla, were destroyed. In this incident Trilok Joshi belonging to the Bajrang Dal was arrested. But, because it is these forces that control the local market they enforced a bandh and used pressure tactics to get him released.

On July 26 there was the incident at Asind where worshippers at the annual urs were attacked. However, due to intervention by local activists there, the administration promptly had the mazaar repaired.

Then, late in the night on August 12, the Masjid at Pandher kasbah was attacked and the Koransharif burnt; no one has been implicated in this case so far. On September 6, the

Attambaba Mazaar was also completely razed to the ground. Here also none were arrested.

The biggest betrayal for us is the close collusion locally between the Congress — a party that has traditionally meant safety and protection for us — and the VHP. Everyone knows that the five main persons behind the Pandher incidents are Bhogkalchand Khatti, Satendra Katrija, Mokhand Sohni, Ram Saraf, and Deokishen. They all work with the VHP. In fact, Khatti is an office bearer of the VHP and a Congress leader at the same time! It was he who led the destruction in Jahazpur.

There are only 7–8% Muslims living here. Our behaviour has been subdued. We feel betrayed and crushed. No action has been taken against those who attacked our masjid, burnt copies of our Holy Book.

Then, between September 10 and 14, the same forces targeted Mandal, a small city in Rajasthan that has been a symbol of communal harmony. There was severe tension in the town where riots had never taken place before. How did this happen? Some idols were mysteriously discovered below an ancient mosque one month ago. And during this tense period, they were suddenly found desecrated by the roadside near Balai Kheda village. There seems to be a deliberately attempt to inflame sentiments.

Though the administration reinstalled the idols, the VHP issued an ultimatum threatening closure of the local bazaar if those guilty for the desecration were not arrested by September 13. On September 14 Mandal town was forcibly closed down. When the local police officer, SHO Khan Mohammed, and the local MLA, Hafiz Mohammed attempted to be firm with the Bajrang Dal activists who were terrorising people into closing their shops and businesses, the BD made further communal capital out of it as both men happen to be Muslims.

In yet another incident at Mandal, a small mazaar was broken down and an idol installed there. Some locals identified BD members as responsible but none are arrested and there are no cases against them.

FIRs were lodged without naming anyone and the administration could not prevent another shrine from being destroyed on August 9. Here the culprits were identified yet no action was taken. Overnight the mazaar began to be called a mandir. What are we to make of this?

The questions that run through our mind are:

Why did these attacks take place at all? Why did the dominant Hindus forcibly keep the markets shut for 10 days, for a fortnight? The obvious purpose behind the forcible closure of markets is to pressurise the police and administration and thus prevent the arrest of guilty criminals. For three months, from July till late September, Muslim vendors, mechanics and fruit sellers were forcibly threatened and removed from the bazaars. There was no positive intervention from administration. The board outside the Jama Masjid was removed and the Bajrang Dal trishul put on display.

Who says we are free citizens? (Ham svatantra nagrik kahan hain)?

Again, on Dussehra day, they tried to terrorise the administration. Though cases have been registered we have no hope that justice will be done. Things are slightly better now that two permanent officers are stationed in Jahazpur; but we continue to live in fear and not like free citizens.


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