Friday, June 23, 2017

Reporter Recounts How a Mob In Delhi Assaulted Him When They Identified Him As Muslim

NBThis is what happened earlier this month to my student Malik Abdul Basit, who works for Caravan, when he went to cover a story. A criminal assault on an innocent young man doing his job, and of course we know what will happen to the case. I am horrified and appalled, even though it should come as no surprise. The poison of communal hatred that makes any person suspect because of his or her name or place of origin is destroying our humanity on a daily basis. Abdul Basit is a Kashmiri, working in Delhi. Does he have no right to live and work without fear? Some people shout night and day about national integrity - is this the way to keep the country united? Hindutva is the mirror image of the ideology of the Islamists, and is the most potent method to prove the two nation theory correct. My heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with Basit for having undergone such a terrible ordeal. Don't lose heart my young friend. Humanity shall prevail against all odds - Dilip

On 9 June, I was investigating the alleged demolition of a mosque in Sonia Vihar, in Delhi. A group of Hindus I was speaking to became violent when they learnt that I had a Muslim name.

The voter card I had handed over to the men included my middle name as well, which is Abdul. (As is the naming convention, it reads: “Malik Abdul Basit.”) “Saale Muslim!” one of them yelled, upon seeing the card. Then, one of them asked me how I had found out about the meeting. I told him that Bharat had asked me to come with him.  The members of the gathering began to question Bharat. “How could I have known he was a Muslim?” Bharat said… By this time, many other people had joined the mob surrounding me, and several others continued to enter the lawn. A man in the crowd, who was wearing a red t-shirt, asked me my name again. “Basit Malik,” I responded. “Nahi, Abdul Basit!” someone to my left yelled… The man in the red t-shirt slapped me. My spectacles slipped from my face, but I was able to catch them before they fell to the floor. Another person, whom I could not see, slapped the back of my head. My head started to spin. “Harami toh Musalman hai” -this bastard is a Muslim, Singh said loudly. “Hum yahan police se bhaag rahe hain aur tu hamari pareshaniyan badhana chahata hai”- we are on the run from the police, and you’re trying to make matters worse, he said. I told Singh that I had no such intention, and that I only wanted to listen to their accounts.

At close to 11.30 pm on 7 June, the news publication the Milli Gazette published a video to its Facebook page. The video showed a group of people demolishing a brick structure. According to the caption that accompanied the clip, this structure was a rudimentary mosque located in Ambay Enclave, a small basti near Sonia Vihar in Delhi, where 25 Muslim families resided. Finding themselves with no place of worship during the month of Ramadan, the caption said, these families had constructed a makeshift mosque. “Its existence began to pinch certain enemies of peace,” the caption alleged. On the morning of 7 June, a group of people attacked the structure, and razed it to the ground.

On the afternoon of 8 June, I went to Sonia Vihar to investigate the incident. That day, I spoke to several Muslim residents from the area. They told me that the Hindu residents of the area - primarily members of Thakur and Gujjar communities - were displeased with the construction of the mosque and had decided to demolish it. A Muslim woman residing in the basti told me that the mob was shouting slogans such as “Masjid todo, swarg banao”- break the mosque, and build heaven instead. A 23-year-old Muslim man who resides in the area said that members of the Muslim community earlier prayed in a small building that functioned as both a madrasa and a mosque, and was located down the lane from the demolished structure. This space was too small, the 23-year-old said. “We just needed a large space,” he added. He told me that the Muslim residents had then approached Akbar Ali, who owned a small plot of land, and obtained his permission to construct a four-walled structure that could function as a mosque on it. “It had only been nine days” since the structure had begun to be used, the 23-year-old said. Later that evening, I spoke with officials from the Sonia Vihar police station, but was unable to obtain a response. Subhash Vats, the station house officer, said “it was not my jurisdiction,” and directed me to the district and the assistant commissioners of police. Sudhir Kumar, the ACP, denied that any such incident had taken place. The DCP’s assistant asked me to return the next day.

The next morning, I called one of the Muslim residents that I had met during my visit to Sonia Vihar. The resident told me that the situation had worsened. He said that a Muslim barber who had rented his shop from a Hindu resident, had been asked by his landlords to shut the business for the day. He added that the Muslim residents were worried that they would not be allowed to set up stalls during the weekly market, which was to take place that evening. I decided to go to Sonia Vihar and to speak with the members of the Gujjar and Thakur communities who had allegedly been involved in the demolition… read more: