Sunday, December 10, 2023

In Satara, Muslims targeted by Hindu mob, unable to reopen livelihood amid boycott calls by Hindutva groups

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It has been over a month since Rabiya Basri (Bashiran) in Satara took her cart out to sell fruits, which is her family’s only source of income.

In the aftermath of the anti-Muslim violence that erupted in Maharashtra’s Satara on 10 September due to alleged objectionable social media posts, a Muslim youth named Nurul Hasan lost his life, and ten others were left with serious injuries.

Muslims in the violence-hit Pussessawali village of Satara allege that they are being forcibly evicted from rented houses owned by Hindus. Small-scale businesses owned by Muslims are facing adverse impacts.

Furthermore, Muslim vendors are being denied permission to open their shops and take their carts out in the locality to sustain their businesses.

Rabiya Basri is a fruit seller who operates a small fruit cart with her husband to support their household. However, since the outbreak of violence in Pussessawali village, which resulted in the death of one Muslim man and numerous injuries, she is fearful of taking her cart out.

She faces a daily loss of 500-600 rupees whenever her shop remains closed.

The money that she and her husband had saved to purchase a permanent shelter was also ‘looted by the rioters.’ Up until now, they have been residing in a temporary makeshift house, commonly known as a ‘kholi.’

Basri explained, “On the day when the Hindu mob attacked the mosque, we ran here and there to seek shelter and protect our lives. Someone stole the money we had saved to build our house.”

She continued, “Our fruit cart is our sole source of income, and we used the earnings from it to marry off both of our daughters.”

Basri further mentioned that she went to the police station to file a complaint about the robbery and requested permission to resume selling fruits. However, the police diverted her, stating, “A lot has been happening right now, and we don’t have time for these complaints at the moment. We will address them after the violence is resolved.”

“This small fruit-selling business is our sole means of support in our old age. We don’t even have a son to take care of our financial expenses. If one of us falls ill and we don’t have the money, which we earn solely through our fruit cart, who will pay for the medicines?” Basri asked.

Muslim residents are describing it as a “social and economic boycott.”

Yousuf Abdullah Baghwan, a social worker and former leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), told Maktoob, “Hostility has suddenly emerged from Hindus towards Muslims, despite Muslims being the ones attacked and killed during the violence that erupted on September 10.”

He further explained, “Hindus were previously comfortable renting their shops and houses to Muslims, but now they are demanding that Muslims vacate their properties.”

“Some Hindus are unwilling to perpetuate this animosity towards Muslims, but they are under pressure and threats from Hindu leaders and far-right groups in the village and Satara district. If they resist, they face potential expulsion from their own Hindu community,” Baghwan added.

He also said that, on 19 August, Hindutva groups including Sakal Hindu Samaj, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal carried out a rally in which they called for an economic and social boycott of Muslims.

“Abuses and provocative slogans were also raised targeting Muslims,” said Baghwan.

Shiraz Baghwan, another resident whose brothers, Sameer Baghwaan and Sarfaraz Baghwaan, were injured while praying in the Jama Masjid when a Hindu mob attacked the mosque on September 9, informed Maktoob that his cousin Aslam Shaikh’s landlord asked them to vacate their house urgently.

On the night of August 15, Aslam Sheikh’s landlord also demanded that he leave the house.

“I and my family have been residing there for three years without any prior issues, but now they have asked us to depart,” Shaikh explained.

He continued, “I attempted to reason with the landlord, explaining that we have done nothing wrong, but he remained unresponsive.”

Shaikh added, “All of this appears to be solely because we are Muslims. At that time, we temporarily relocated to a nearby village to stay with relatives.”

A local political leader threatened the landlord, “They are Muslims, and anything could happen to the house.”

He continued, “The same leader also warned that they would boycott the landlord if they allowed us to remain in their home.”

The landlord, who is Hindu, is an elderly couple that rents out their two-floor building, as they reside alone. All four other tenant families are Hindu, except for Shaikh’s family.

Shaikh noticed a sudden change in the attitude of his fellow tenants towards his family.

He expressed, “They have stopped communicating with us and often cast unfriendly glances our way. They whisper among themselves, which makes us feel uncomfortable and saddened, wondering what we have done.”

The family is still residing with relatives as they have been unable to find another place to live. However, Shaikh has returned to Pusesawali village to retrieve his family’s belongings.

Another Muslim juice vendor, whose shop was vandalized by a Hindu mob with items looted, expressed his fear of setting up his stall again due to the physical violence he endured.

He stated, “I keep thinking reopening my juice stall since it’s my family’s sole source of income. But after the violence, I have nothing left to start anew.”

He continued, “Furthermore, the continuous calls by Hindu leaders to boycott Muslim-run businesses serve as a distressing reminder, as my life could be their next target.”

“In this small village, they can easily distinguish between Muslim and Hindu-owned stalls. I’m afraid that if they attack me, there will be no one to look after my family.”

For the time being, the family is relying on their limited savings and considering relocating elsewhere because, as he further explained, “Hostility from Hindus towards Muslims is growing.”

Meanwhile, Wasim Kumandan, a social worker dedicated to helping those affected by the violence, asserts that no action has been taken against “those responsible for the violence, while the police are entertaining complaints against Muslim leaders.”

He commented, “The Satara Police’s acceptance of applications to interrogate Muslim leaders seems like a biased investigation. For a fair inquiry, they should arrest and interrogate individuals from both sides.”

Vikaram Pawaskar, a Bhartiya Janata Party leader in the region, is believed to be the primary accused in the Satara violence, as alleged by local leaders and residents. However, no action has been taken against him.

Kumandan further noted, “An application from the Sakal Hindu Samaj (SHS) has been submitted to the Vathar Police Station, and SHS has issued threats in the application regarding dire consequences if any complaint is filed against Pawaskar.”

He posed the question, “Should we view this as another instance where Muslims will be unjustly and falsely implicated by the police and the current regime?”

Maktoob made several calls to Satara Police to learn about the claims and the developments but all calls made unanswered.

The report will be updated as soon as we receive a response.

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