Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How Holi turned ‘unholy’ for Muslims: glimpses from across Indian cities

‘The festival of colours’ this year was marred by multiple incidents of molestation, violence, and harassment against Muslims, particularly women, between March 23 and 25, ahead of and during celebrations across different parts of the country.

Uttar Pradesh

­Bijnor

In Dhampur town of Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district, a Muslim man along with his sister and mother, returning from a doctor’s visit were subjected to harassment by a mob of Holi celebrating men on March 23.

Dilshad (28), who goes by his first name, is a resident of the Jamalpur Alam area of Dhampur. He was unaware of what was going to transpire that day when he decided to step out of his house with his younger sister Sofia and mother Zayeda to take them to a clinic in Khari Kuan at a distance of around 3 kilometres from his house.

In a video that surfaced on social media sites, Dilshad can be seen defending himself and the two women pillion riding on his two-wheeler while the crowd surrounding them was forcibly rubbing Holi colours on their faces and body parts.

As the harassment escalated, the Hindu mob playing Holi can also be seen dousing the Muslim family with water while they were visibly trying to resist the violence. The assailants also splashed coloured water as Dilshad, Sofia, and Zayeda somehow managed to leave the spot.

In the video, one of the mob can be heard saying “This is a 70-year-old tradition, don’t you know by now that if you come to Badi Bazar this will happen.”

Speaking to Maktoob Dilshad, a labourer said, “At around 3 pm I took my sister Sofia, who had a severe fever to the doctor. She could not walk on her own so we decided to take my mother too. While we three were returning from the doctor, a group of Hindu men stopped my bike and took out the keys. They first doused us with water, I let that go, but then they started misbehaving with my sister and mother.”

“We were just passing and I asked them multiple times to stop and let us go, but they forcefully applied colours on all of us and doused us with water while saying bura na mano holi hai (Don’t feel bad, it’s holi)”, he added.

He further said that his sister was unwell and despite making requests the Hindu mob didn’t stop and continued with the harassment.

He also alleged that the group of men had also beaten him while he was trying to resist the attack and that the assailants tried to touch his mother and sister inappropriately and raised religious slogans ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Jai Shree Ram’.

Following the outrage on social media, Bijnor Police registered a case for wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt and assaulting a woman along with several other sections of the Indian Penal Code based on Dilshad’s complaint, and one adult identified as Aniruddh along with three minors were arrested in connection with the case.

Another incident occurred at Nagina Chauraha in Dhampur, Bijnor around noon on the same day. A group of Hindu men forcibly applied colours and water to two burqa-clad Muslim women who were returning from the hospital.

Stains of the colours thrown at the Muslim women were visible in the videos that surfaced on social media. One of the two women in the video can be seen with a cannula in one hand substantiating their claim of returning after seeing a doctor.

Another video that emerged from the same area shows multiple Holi-playing men throwing colours at a Muslim man named Mohammad Iqbal, who was going to attend the funeral of his relative. In the video of the incident, many young boys can be seen surrounding Iqbal and throwing colours at him and his two relatives despite protests.

A local journalist Nidhi Sharma was reportedly doused with water as she was trying to confront the assailants who were harassing and forcefully applying colours to passerby Muslims. Sharma alleged that police who were standing nearby didn’t take any cognizance of the incidents happening in the broad daylight.

The matter also reached the Dhampur police station where a family who threw water at Sharma apologised and the matter was settled.

However, no action has been taken by the Bijnor police administration against the Hindu men who engaged in violence and harassment in the guise of celebrating Holi.

Mosques Covered in Aligarh & Sambhal

At least nine mosques were covered with a tarpaulin sheet in Aligarh and Sambhal districts in Uttar Pradesh as a precautionary measure ahead of Holi celebrations on March 24.

The move was a collective decision taken by the religious and community leaders keeping in mind the law and order, as per police officials.

Maktoob has learned that in Aligarh, Halwaiyan Masjid in the Sabzi Mandi area of the old city, also known as ‘sheher’, and Delhi gate Masjid were covered with green and black tarpaulin sheets. A flag march was also conducted by the police in the ‘sensitive areas’ with a message of peace.

Aligarh mosque covered with tarpaulin.

In Sambhal, Bazaar Masjid, Nakhasha Masjid, Arya Samaj Road Masjid along with four others have also been covered with a tarpaulin with mutual consent of community leaders and public administration, locals informed Maktoob.

Additional Superintendent of Police (North), Shrish Chandra maintained, “The covering of mosques is done to avoid disputes that often occur due to splashing of colours.”

Gujarat

Nawab Sultan (27), an auto-rickshaw driver was brutally assaulted, beaten, and forcefully coloured with Holi by a group of Hindus preparing to celebrate Holi in a gated colony ‘Champaner Society’ of Ahmedabad’s Vadaj area while he went to drop off a transgender passenger travelling in his auto rickshaw on March 25 at around 1 pm.

Upon learning Sultan’s identity the Hindu group allegedly set his auto-rickshaw on fire and shouted Islamophobic slurs, calling him ‘Katua’ and ‘Mulla’.

Sultan explaining his ordeal to Maktoob said, “The transgender passenger is my regular customer and lives in Champaner Society. Since last month, I have been picking and dropping them from and to the society and nothing happened.”

“Now today, when I came to drop the passenger, some people in the society threw colours on us and tried to pick a quarrel. I requested them to stay away from the auto-rickshaw and not to fight. They didn’t listen and dragged me out of the vehicle and started thrashing.”

He said, “I told them that I was fasting and again requested them to spare me and let me go but the moment they heard that I am a Muslim, more people came and started assaulting me again. They forcefully applied colours to me. I was terrified and while I was trying to save myself they set my auto rickshaw on fire in front of my eyes.”

Sultan alleged that they intended to burn him along with the vehicle so he ran to save his life. He left the vehicle and called the fire brigade which later came and doused the fire.

A First Information Report has been registered at the Wagda Police Station under several sections of the Indian Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt, reciting obscene songs and acts, mischief by fire and others. No action has been taken by the police yet.

After a few hours of filing a police complaint, Sultan could only gather the charred remains of his auto rickshaw which is the source of sustenance of his entire family as he is the only earning hand.

Abraruddin, President of the Social Democratic Party of India in Ahmedabad told Maktoob, “Due to Gujarat’s Disturbed Areas Act, Muslims and Hindus live in segregated areas but this has now become an issue for the Muslim population often putting them in hostile situations such as what happened with Sultan.”

As per the Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act, any area within a State extensive disturbance of the public peace and tranquillity, because of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language, or regional groups or castes or communities, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare such area to be a disturbed area

“He became the victim of hate, Islamophobia, and this ‘Act’ that segregates Muslims and Hindus and Hindus often misused by Hindus as a tool to harass Muslims in the state and it is spreading”, he said.

He alleged that police in Sultan’s case were ‘favouring’ the assaulters and accused them of invoking ‘non-serious’ and ‘lenient’ sections in the FIR, while according to him, ‘this was clearly an attempt to kill’.

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra’s Beed district, some ‘unidentified miscreants’ allegedly wrote ‘Jai Shree Ram’ with Holi colours on the wall of Markaz Masjid in Majalgaon on March 25.

Muslims in large numbers gathered outside the police station to protest, demanding action against the perpetrators.

The police have registered a case in the matter and have assured the residents of arresting the culprits within 24 hours.

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