Sufiya Begam, 40, was sleeping in her house on 01 March when police barged in. Her son, Tahir Ansari made a narrow escape during the raid. That was the last he would see his mother.
Begam couldn’t bear what she was witnessing and had a panic attack. She breathed her last that night, to be buried by strangers the next morning.
“There were no men in the town to perform their last rituals and to bury them. Half of the men were arrested and the rest are out of the town due to police witch-hunt,” says Wajid, Sufiya’s relative.
Ansari is still absconding like many other Muslim men in Aland town of Karnataka’s Kalaburagi district, who fear mass detention after a communally charged episode in connection with a Hindutva rally.
About 167 Muslims have been arrested and five First Information Reports (FIRs) registered on 01 March in Aland following a standoff between Hindutva groups and Muslims, when an illegal Hindutva rally tried to enter a local Muslim shrine.
Hazrat Ladle Mashaikh Dargah of Aland is one of the historic places in the town built 650 years ago. The local Hindutva forces claim a Shiva Linga (representation of Hindu God Shiva) is inside the Dargah premises.
The issue got traction after BJP MLA Subhash Guttedar in the Karnataka assembly demanded a temple must be built in the dargah and premises on December 23 last year. Following his statement in the assembly session, Andola Swamy, a local priest backed him and gave the call for “Aland Chalo.”
On 01 March, Hindutva outfits carried out a rally with the title “Aland Chalo” under the leadership of Aland constituency BJP MLA Subhash Guttedar, Gulbarga rural MLA Basawaraj Mattimud, Sedam MLA Rajkumar Patil Thakur and Bhagawant Khuba, MP from Bidar.
The locals believe that this was a matter of dispute for the past 60 years, but whenever the Hindutva outfits filed petitions for seeking Dargah land their petitions were dismissed by the Gulbarga district court.
Even though section 144 — restrictions to assemble — was imposed across Aland from 27 February to 03 March, the Hindutva outfits defied the restrictions and made inflammatory speeches against police.
“They were only 200 in the rally but nearly 3000+ Muslims came out of their houses carrying iron rods and lathis and gathered in front of the dargah and it took us nearly 2 to 3 hours to disperse the crowd,” says IPS Isha Pant, SP Gulbarga district.
Police allege that the vehicles of the IGP, the DC, and many other police officials were stoned in the tension.
“We spoke to leaders from both the communities and decided that 10 people from Hindutva forces will be allowed inside the Dargah premises to perform their rituals,” Pant told to Maktoob.
“I don’t consider them to be Muslims or Hindus, whoever tried to create unrest in the town are rioters in our view. The police department has arrested approximately 165 rioters [Muslims], including 9 females. An FIR has been registered against 65 people, among these 65 there’s a female too.
“We even restricted Andola Swamy from joining the rally, and we restricted Chaitra Kundapura (Leader, Bajarang Dal women’s wing) and Pramod Mutalik (Karnataka chief, Ramsena) from entering the district.” IPS Isha Pant added.
Muslims claims that police barged into Muslim houses at midnight, terrorised women and arrested men. Many have fled Aland after “brutal” police raids.
“Police barged into our houses at midnight and arrested many youths. The police’s behaviour was very rude to the women in the houses. Without any warrant they arrested our brothers and sisters,” Wajid told Maktoob.
The 167 muslims have been booked under Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 (U/s-3); IPC 1860 (U/s-427,504.120B, 143, 147, 148, 149,307,332,333,353).
The arrested people are detained in Gulbarga district Jail.
According to locals, two mentally challenged men, Shakeel (Bellary JC) & Mohsin (Bijapur JC) were also arrested from their houses and sent to judicial custody.
On 02 March, a Muslim organisation working in Gulbarga organized a protest against the witch-hunting of the Muslims in Aland of Gulbarga. FIR has been also registered against the leaders of various Muslim organisations who protested.
“It’s an old habit of Hindutva forces to target religious and historical places of Muslims. We have seen them destroying the peace and harmony of the towns,” said Shahid Nasir, state leader of the Popular Front of India, in his speech at the protest gathering.
Locals allege that about 20 of the arrested are minors. Maktoob could only verify the identity of one of them.
“Muslim community had to step on the ground to protect their religious and historical places. We share our solidarity with our brothers. The leaders of Hindutva outfits who disturbed the peaceful environment of the town must be arrested.”
“Immediate action must be taken against Andola Swamy who’s a root reason for all this mess happening around, and whoever is behind this must be punished as soon as possible, justice must be served at any cost” Aleem Ilahi, SDPI Gulbarga district General Secretary told to Maktoob.