A Study in Saffron

How Gurugram’s Hindu Right orchestrated the namaz row

30 January 2023
Muslim worshippers evacuate a namaz site in Gurugram as Hindu right-wing protesters arrive to oppose them, in December 2021. Since 2018, various factions of the Hindu Right in Gurugram had been attacking the centuries-old practice of congregational namaz, assigning it fantastical motives.
ANI PHOTO
Muslim worshippers evacuate a namaz site in Gurugram as Hindu right-wing protesters arrive to oppose them, in December 2021. Since 2018, various factions of the Hindu Right in Gurugram had been attacking the centuries-old practice of congregational namaz, assigning it fantastical motives.
ANI PHOTO

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ALTAF AHMAD WAS AT HOME in Gurugram on 17 September 2021. It was his forty-fifth birthday. Throughout the morning, he had been fielding congratulatory calls and texts from his relatives and friends. Some of his callers joked about a coincidence: Ahmad shared his birthday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Ahmad’s birthday fell on a Friday that year. As he prepared to head out for namaz, he received a call from Abdul Haseeb, a local imam who had been teaching his daughters Arabic, and they knew each other well. Haseeb told him that things were getting tense at the namaz site in Gurugram’s Sector 47. Dinesh Bharti, the founder of the far-right outfit Bharat Mata Vahini, had arrived at the site with a large number of supporters.

The Sector 47 prayer site is roughly five kilometres from Ahmad’s home. As he drove there, he received five calls. The imams were frantic. “Jaldi aaiye, jaldi aaiye”—come fast, come fast—they told him. “These guys are shouting threatening slogans.” Ahmad told the imams not to move from the prayer site. “We have the permission to pray there, and it’s the police’s job to give us security.”

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    Vaibhav Vats is an independent writer and journalist. His work has appeared in the New York Times and Al Jazeera, among other publications. He is working on a book on Hindu nationalism and the making of India’s Second Republic. 

    Keywords: Gurgaon Muslims in India Hindutva Caravan 2023 Rewind: Investigations
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