After restrictions on malls and garba, now Muslims told not to ride autos, Gujarat
July 11, 2019
In yet another targeting of the Muslims in the state of Gujarat, an auto-rickshaw driver, Mohammed ArifQureshi, was told that Muslims cannot drive autos in Ghatlodia, an area in Ahmedabad, while he was dropping a passenger. As reported in The Times of India, an unidentified man threatened Qureshi (48) who asked him, “How can a Muslim drive and earn money in Ghatlodia?” The incident reportedly took place on Tuesday.
Image courtesy Sabrang India
“After I dropped a passenger near Chandlodiya railway station, I was moving about in Ghatlodia to find a passenger. At around 2 p.m., a passenger waved at me to stop the rickshaw. I stopped my auto rickshaw and asked him where he wanted to go. The passenger said he wanted to go to Delhi Darwaja and I told him to get in,” said Qureshi in his FIR.
Qureshi, a resident of Biscuit Gali near Pankornaka in Karanj, further added, “Suddenly, a man rushed there and asked me that how can I, being a Muslim, roam in Ghatlodia and take passengers from here. To this, I told him that I had stopped as the passenger had waved at me to stop. He then got angry at me and abused me. Before I could realise anything, he came up with an iron rod and tried to attack me. I evaded the attack and drove off but my auto rickshaw meter was damaged in the attack.”
After the shocking incident, Qureshi approached a city-based advocate, who took him to the office of police commissioner A.K. Singh from where they went to the Sola High Court police station. An FIR has been registered under IPC Section 294(b) (verbal abuse) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees). It is pertinent to note that IPC section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) was not invoked by the police despite the attack evidently having a communal angle.
Gujarat became the epicenter of communal violence in the 2002 pogrom. Since then, there have been multiple attempts by the government as well as the Hindutva supremacists to “protect the state” by eliminating Muslims. These Hindutva groups, led by the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), the parent organisation of the ruling BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP), have attempted to restrict the movements and participation of Muslims in the state by organising campaigns and influencing the locals. A few such instances are mentioned below.
In November 2018, a video of a group of people taking an oath to boycott shops owned by Muslims went viral on social media. In the video, people could be heard saying in Gujarati, “In the presence of Hanuman Maharaj, I take an oath that starting today, I won’t buy any goods from shops owned by members of the Muslim community.” Later it was found that the people in the video were members of BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the youth wing of RSS.
ImtiyazPathan, convener of the Muslim EktaManch and the advocate for Qureshi, had said, “I had spoken to our friends in Bhavnagar. According to them, the man leading the group is KiritMistry, a VHP leader from Bhavnagar. Our members (Muslim EktaManch) have also identified a few more people in the group. I have submitted this letter to the Bhavnagar SP Pravin Mal, proposing it to be taken as a complaint and register an FIR on it.”
Earlier, in 2016, there were reports of gomutra(cow’s urine) being sprinkled on visitors at garba (a Gujarati dance form played during Navratri) venues in Gandhinagar, to keep the Muslims at bay. The rationale was that no Hindu would oppose the sprinkling of cow urine. The demand had allegedly come from VHP leader PravinTogadia who had said that the identity cards of every person entering the venue of the event must be checked at the door. “Navratri is the festival of Mother Amba’s prayers and worship, so we cannot allow beef-eating Muslims to enter into garba places,” Togadia had said.
The VHP members handed over a memorandum to the district collector, seeking to ban Muslims at the event for “security” and “law and order” reasons. Consequently, organisers of two garba events in Gujarat’s Bharuch district had decided not to allow Muslims at the venue after protests from the VHP. The Hindutva group also protested against two garba events which had Muslims among the organisers.
The attempts by the fundamentalist groups of dividing the state into Hindus, Muslims and others is not new. In 2013, the Himalaya Mall, one of the five biggest malls in Ahmedabad, was reportedly charging entry fee of Rs. 20 from Muslims on Eid. According to Deepa Bhatnagar, manager (operations) of the Himalaya Mall, levying the fee was a routine move to check visitors on a busy day and those who would purchase anything from the mall could get the refund. However, there were reports of blatant discrimination, with the mall security scrutinizing the Muslim youth of a specific age group and levying entry fee on them whereas women and many others were allowed to walk in without any charge. Predictably, the mall authorities denied reports of discrimination.
The recent attack on Qureshi is just another attempt to other the Muslims and adds to the rampant discrimination of the minority communities. The perpetrators most often enjoy impunity and backing from the powerful forces, thereby further encouraging them to take the law into their own hands.
The ‘new India’ seems to be in making, a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is on its way!
First published in Sabrang India.
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