The issue of Gurgaon’s Muslims being stopped from offering namaz in open spaces, including government-owned land, every Friday for the past few months reached the Supreme Court on Thursday, after an ex-Rajya Sabha MP filed a petition.
Ex-MP Mohammed Adeeb has moved the top court asking for action against Haryana officials, including the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police, for failing to comply with earlier directions regarding measures to curb communal and violent sentiments that result in hate crimes.
Action has been sought against Chief Secretary Sanjeev Kaushal, DGP PK Agrawal, and others.
The Supreme Court directions referenced were passed in 2018 and relate to measures to prevent hate crime, including mob violence and lynching.
In his plea, Mr Adeeb said there has been a steady increase in incidents involving Friday prayers offered by the Muslim community in Gurgaon.
He said these incidents were being orchestrated at the behest of “identifiable hooligans” trying to create an atmosphere of hatred and prejudice against one community. There is “serious inaction” on the part of state machinery in taking measures to prevent such horrific incidents, the plea said.
Over the past weeks and months, namaz offered outdoors on government-owned land in Gurgaon has triggered vociferous protests from right-wing Hindu groups.
Last month these groups went so far as to spread cow dung on a prayer site.
In October tensions flared as people – who locals claimed were affiliated to right-wing groups – disrupted prayers in Sector 12-A. 30 people were detained after that stand-off.
At various times police presence has been required to maintain a semblance of order, but that has not stopped right-wing groups from continuing to actively disrupt namaz every week.
Following these and weekly protests at other places in Gurgaon, the district administration last month said Muslims would not be allowed to pray at eight of the 37 previously agreed sites.
These 37 sites were agreed after discussion between the Hindu and Muslim communities after similar issues in 2018. Last month, however, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said Muslims would not be allowed to offer namaz in open spaces; this was effectively a withdrawal of the 2018 deal.
He told reporters “we won’t tolerate the custom of offering namaz in the open”.
When the issue first made headlines, Mr Khattar said everyone had a right to pray but also issued a caveat, saying “those offering prayers should not block road traffic”.