Delhi pogrom: The excruciating pain of an Imam

Masjid Maula Baksh at Ashok Nagar in Northeast Delhi arson during the Delhi pogrom. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

Md. Afzal khan

The evening of 24th February still haunts Abdul Rahim, the Imam of Masjid Maula Baksh at Ashok Nagar in Northeast Delhi with memories of the fanatic group entered and defiled his masjid. After the demolition of the tomb, the saffron flag was hoisted on the minaret chanting Jai Shri Ram.

On 8th March, I, along with two companions, visited the Maula Baksh mosque and saw a horrifying picture of the inside of premises of masjid. The inhumane hawkishness of goons was flagrant. They set ablaze the entire premises, with no heed to what was sacred or not; The Holy Quran, Hadith books, and different religious text frames all had been left as mere ashes.

The violence that occurred in North-East Delhi has been labelled a lot of things by the mainstream media: Clash, Riot, Struggles. The idea that all parties and communities involved had an equal share and responsibility for the violence was the theme that was being promoted by almost all media houses. A few had the courage to call it a pogrom, a systematic attack against a minority community.

Rioters looted the belongings of the mosque including cash worth rupees 2 lakhs, gold and silver jewellery of muazzin’s wife, and various other valuables of the Imam and Khadim. They apparently had torched two motorcycles too, each of the Imam and Muazzin. The crumbling down of the tombs and minarets of the mosque accelerated tense situations in the vicinity of Ashok Nagar. Saffron clad goons were roaming about chanting Jai Shri ram and aggressively abusing the Muslim residents, the Imam remembered. 

The entire structure of the mosque, Imam’s quarters, muazzin’s room, and compartment of khadim and more than eight shops were vandalised and looted by goons. Embers were used to destroy the mosque. When I met Haji Rafiuddin, founder of Mosque Maula Baksh, he narrated a brief history of the mosque. At the time of independence, he discarded a proposed settlement in Pakistan and decided to stay in India.

He would never have imagined that anything of this sort would happen in his homeland – India, but this is the irony. Haji Rafiuddin Sahab laid the foundation stone of Mosque Maula Baksh at Ashok Nagar in 1974 and named it after his father, Maula Baksh. 38-year-old Hajiji was a madrassa muhatammim (A scholar of the Madarsa system of Education) and social reformer then.

I came across many such heart throbbing stories and countless people whose lives were adversely stirred by this turmoil. The mob of insurgents had blistered houses and shops possessed by Muslims as well as the mosques that were an impressive architecture over that unfortunately poor chunk of land. With the torching of the Mosque, the Imam and Muazzin are now left destitute.

Md Afzal taking testimonies from Haji Rafiuddin

Although I have visualized grievance in many eyes and I’ve felt anxiety and fear on many phizogs. The magnitude of convalescence of those affected with this fracas is abstract. One such anecdote is the narration of Mr Md Naushad who was the Muazzin of Madina Masjid. He was in a Madrasa with around 20 students and his spouse when some violent goons sieged the Madarsa chanting “Jai Shree Ram”. Mr Naushad somehow took his wife and the pupils and went to Madina Masjid presuming that perhaps, they would be safe there. To their misfortune, the terror chased them there as well. When the situation turned violent, he was somehow successful enough in making his wife flee from the spot.

Recalling his horrid experience of the day, he said, “I was locked down inside the masjid. A group of goons, an entire mob, approached the masjid. I was terrified seeing the mob. I decided to reach out to the police and started trying to communicate with them for help and rescue but was declined. Even my neighbours refused to help, because they feared that it will be detrimental for them helping someone of different religion. I stood with cold feet for about 72 hours. I still get chills remembering that experience”.

Even after calling the police recurrently, no help was received by the victims. In fact, some recall the police personnel themselves impugned the callers in the name of religion. With the leftover faith over the police protection gone, Naushad soon realized that these violent mobsters were there with an intention to destroy everything, including the mosque complex.

It took a good fold of time for him to overcome the depression that he underwent on behalf of all the inhumane hawkishness his innocent eyes witnessed. When he came back to his senses he was given to understand that his wife and children have been taken to their native village because of the upheaval and he was left behind to stay in the frontline and raise his voice against this oppression. 

After Delhi pogrom, the desecrated mosque Maula Baksh is being reconstructed under the supervision of Haji Rafiuddin and his son Naseeruddin. After 46 years, Hajiji is consistently performing and monitoring the renovation work of the mosque. Upon being asked about who gave the idea of building a mosque in Ashok Nagar, Hajiji said that Mufti Darul Uloom Moulana Qari Tayyab Sb and Mufti Atiqur Rahman influenced them to build mosque Maula Baksh at Ashok Nagar.

I informed Hajiji that various teams are working to provide financial assistance to the Imams, Muazzins, and Khadims of the affected mosques and madrasas. Hajiji replied that they are doing noble work, and should provide financial assistance to every needy person equally. The violation of human rights in a democracy like India is a matter of concern for us. Sacred sites were destroyed, and holy books were torched.

Despite all this, many still have faith in the apex court of the country. Under the supervision of the Supreme Court, a committee should be set up to identify the conspirator of Delhi pogrom as soon as possible.

Md. Afzal khan member of Aligarh Muslim University Relief and Rehabilitation team. Afzal completed Masters in commerce from Aligarh Muslim University.

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