Tuesday, April 23, 2024

“We are not safe,” foreign students say after Hindutva group attacks them for praying Taraweeh at hostel

A Hindutva mob attacked Muslim international students studying at Gujarat University, one of the public state universities in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, over offering Taraweeh prayers at their hostel on Saturday night, March 16th. Videos of the attack are viral on social media, triggering widespread outrage.

Taraweeh prayers are special prayers offered in the congregation by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, once a year.

The students claim that the mob was chanting Islamophobic and Hindu religious slogans ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and also carried knives, cricket bats, stones and, other weapons which they used to attack them. The police had arrived at the spot but students alleged that ‘Police let the goons go and did nothing.”

Five students have sustained severe injuries and are admitted to the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Hospital. Those admitted are Haroon Jabbar from Afghanistan, Azad from Turkmenistan, and a Christian student Mario from Sri Lanka, the other two students are from African countries.

Ahmad Waris Sakha, a student of cyber security, told Maktoob, “As there are no mosques inside the university campus or the hostel premises. This was the temporary solution we found to offer our prayers on time. The mosque in the town is very far away. So we congregate in our hostel ground. We are 12 Muslim students from Asian and African countries.”

Sakha said that when they stood to offer Taraweeh prayers in A – block of the hostel, allotted to international students, they started hearing the chants of Jai Shree Ram.

“A mob, some of them wearing saffron scarves, came and started pushing us and asked questions like who allowed us to pray there and that they won’t let us pray in the hostel. By the time we could understand anything, they started beating and attacking us with the weapons they had. With knives, stones, and cricket bats, many of our fellow students got injured” said Sakha.

The security guard of the hostel also tried to stop the mob but failed to stop the attack.

Sakha, who is also the representative of the foreign students studying in GU, tried calling one of the officials in the administration, Dr. Jyoti,  who is responsible for looking after the foreign students in the varsity but received a response opposite to his expectations.

“She said, this is not our responsibility”, said Sakha.

“Their (Mob) numbers were increasing, in a quick matter of time there were at least 200 of them. We then called the police and it took them more than an hour to reach our hostel. Upon hearing the siren of police vehicles and learning that the police had arrived, most of them ran while some of them were present on the premises. Police saw them, but did nothing to them. In front of the police, they managed to escape and the police let them go.”

In one of the videos accessed by Maktoob, some men can be seen running as the police stand right outside the gate of the hostel. In other videos, the goons wearing Saffron Shawls can also be seen vandalising the vehicles parked outside the hostel, belonging to the foreign students.  

Approximately, 200 foreign students are studying in GU belonging to Asian, African, and European countries. The A – block of the hostel accommodates all these students. 

The students also demand their allotment in the new hostel which was constructed six months ago to accommodate international students and only two students from a European country are living there.

“University is favouring them because they are Europeans,” Sakha said.

These foreign students are in India as a part of the scholarship program offered by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) initiated by the Government of India. It offers annual scholarships to foreign students interested in various degree programs and disciplines in Indian central universities.

Sakha who has been studying in India since 2019 said, “It is very shameful on the part of India, which calls itself a democracy and a secular country but it doesn’t have space to accommodate varying religious beliefs and people who follow it.”

“Why would someone want to come to India to study when they have to go through violent attacks and intimidation based on their religious identity? After this attack, I don’t think we are safe,” he added.

Sakha, on behalf of all the international students at GU, urged the Indian government to take measures to ensure their safety in the varsity and the country. The students are also planning to file a police complaint in the matter.

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