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Rajasthan government lax over mosque demolitions: Muslims

Muslim leaders have accused the Rajasthan government of laxity in dealing with culprits behind the demolition of various mosques in the state, according to a report in the New Indian Express.
Anger over the demolition of a mosque at Asind, about 200 km from Jaipur, was yet to subside, when similar incidents in Bhilwara district left the minority community jittery and resentful. The attackers have damaged five shrines. Two shrines were damaged in the first incident at Jahajpur sub-district in Bhilwara on July 16.

A 16th century mosque that existed within the precincts of a temple was pulled down by a group of nomads at Asind. Another mosque was damaged at Jahajpur on August 9. And, a shrine in Pandore town, some 50 km from Asind, was damaged August 12. The August 12 incident was the third in Jahajpur within a month and the fourth one in Bhilwara. Statements from the authorities have added to the resentment, with some community leaders threatening to withdraw support to the state's ruling Congress Party. Jahajpur Municipality councillor Nazir Mohammed, who is an independent member, said: "We do not feel safe here. We have lost our faith in the state government." So far, there has been no loss of life and both communities in Pandore continue to live in amity as in Asind. There has never been history of tension between the two communities in the two places so far, but tension has been mounting in Jahajpur and Asind with both sides mobilising people to demonstrate their strength.

Nasir Pathan, a councillor who belonged to the Congress, added: "The community felt safe during BJP rule because there were no riots."

The Congress government in the state has been downplaying the attacks so far. While Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot claimed the incident at Asind had been "blown out of proportion," at Jahajpur, the government sought to play down the August 9 attack on Pir Baba's Mazar as one on a Hindu shrine, that of "Bhoot Baba."

This, incidentally, was also the line taken by Gokul Chand Khatik, convenor of the Hindu Sanghatan Manch, for the Hindu Organisational Forum, and secretary Mool Chand Soni. The two are being seen by the minority community as prime suspects behind the incidents at Jahajpur. "They are sympathisers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)," alleged Sharif Mohammad, ex-chairman of the municipality and a Congressman himself. But both have denied the charge Khatik, nominated councillor in the local municipality at the behest of Congress by the party's MLA Ratan Lal Tambi, proudly proclaimed his Hindu identity. He denied his role in the attacks, but said: "Whenever atrocities against Hindus take place we protest." He said he has 17 complaints filed against him for involvement in 1984 and 1989 riots.

Questioned about Khatik, Tambi defended him saying he had not been charged in any of the cases booked against him. As for nomination as councillor, Tambi claimed Khatik was not associated with the Hindu manch at the time. Khatik was nominated two months ago, and the explanation does not wash with the Muslims.

Soni said the Hindu Sagathan Manch has planned a "massive rally" on August 17 with the support of Hindu organisations like VHP, Bajrang Dal and other like-minded outfits. He said he had not, however, approached top VHP leaders for support. "Each of our workers is a Giriraj Kishore," said Soni. "He would come after we fail." But leaders of both communities blame "outsiders" for the trouble. Khatik and Soni held the influx of "scores of Bihari maulvis (priests)" responsible for creating "apprehension in the minds of Hindus." Muslims said it was people from outside Pandore who had vandalised the mosque.

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