Men in uniform torched Mustafabad’s Farooqia Masjid, assaulted people inside: Locals

11 March 2020
“They had petrol, diesel in plastic bags. They spilled it on the walls, on beddings that were stashed together, then they lit it on fire,” Tahir said. “The masjid is in such a tattered state that the plaster over the walls has crumbled, only the bricks remain.”
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
“They had petrol, diesel in plastic bags. They spilled it on the walls, on beddings that were stashed together, then they lit it on fire,” Tahir said. “The masjid is in such a tattered state that the plaster over the walls has crumbled, only the bricks remain.”
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

Survivors of brutal physical assaults told The Caravan that men in uniform thrashed them before setting fire to the Farooqia Masjid on the third day of the communal violence in northeast Delhi. The attack took place close to 7 pm on 25 February, when the survivors had nearly finished performing the Maghrib namaz—evening prayers—at the mosque, located at Brijpuri, in the Mustafabad area. Three survivors, as well as other locals who witnessed the incident, identified the attackers as “force” or “policewaale”—policemen. The next day, policemen torched an adjacent madrasa, according to one local who said she witnessed the arson. Mufti Mohammad Tahir, the imam of the mosque, who was among those assaulted, told The Cavaran that there were 16 CCTV cameras within the mosque, and the room in which the footage was stored was located on the madrasa’s ground floor. According to him, the attackers destroyed the room where the recordings were kept.

The three survivors—Tahir, a 30-year-old; Firoz Akhtar, a 42-year-old tailor; and Jalaluddin, the mosque’s 44-year-old muezzin, who gives the calls for prayers—said that the uniformed attackers brutally beat them with lathis. Tahir, Firoz and Jalaluddin sustained severe injuries—I met two of them while they were admitted in hospitals. The survivors estimated that between thirty and sixty uniformed men had attacked the mosque. They said they saw the uniformed men hitting them, but were not able to clearly identify the force—Firoz described the attackers’ garb as “a worn-out military uniform” while Jalaluddin and Tahir said they were dressed in police uniforms. Tahir said the men who attacked the mosque were wearing bulletproof vests because of which “we couldn’t tell whether they were actual policemen or from the RSS or who they were.” The three survivors were certain that none of the attackers were dressed in civilian clothes. 

Locals who witnessed the attack and those who helped the victims escape corroborated the three men’s accounts. During and after the attack, Jalaluddin’s wife, Waheeda, was at an acquaintance’s residence, located around twenty-five metres away from the madrasa. She said that the next morning, she saw policemen torching the madrasa. 

Waheeda, along with a few other families, was staying at the home of Naseem-ul-Hassan, a 59-year-old businessman, after communal violence erupted in northeast Delhi. Hassan recalled what he saw on the day of the attack. The attackers—at least some of whom, Hassan said, were wearing uniforms of a “force”—broke the main gate of the Farooqia Masjid around the time of the Maghrib namaaz, which is performed at around 6.30 pm. He confirmed that the uniformed attackers were not sporting visible name badges, echoing Tahir. The cops then dragged the Muslim men who were performing namaz out of the mosque and “left some of them to die,” Hassan said. He showed me some blood stains on the gate and said the attackers burnt the mosque. Two other local residents said that they had witnessed the same sequence of events, but asked not to be named. 

I visited the mosque and the madrasa more than a week after the men said it had been attacked, in early March. The Farooqia Masjid’s desecration was evident—its walls were charred and several of the beddings and coolers had been burnt. The destruction of the madrasa next door was also visible, with books burnt halfway to ashes and its walls covered in soot.

Kaushal Shroff is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: Delhi Violence northeast Delhi
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