Special Reports

West Bengal: bullets for seeking permission to offer namaz

By Mukhtarul Haq

Kolkata: What an irony that whereas on one side Budhadeb government of West Bengal after facing humiliating defeat at the hands of Muslims in the recent elections is trying to find ways to redress their grievances. On the other side under the same government they are being killed for asking for permission to offer namaz. Similarly, police deployed for restoration of law and order at some places indulged in violating the chastity of about 26 Muslim women or indulging in some other heart-rending incidents. One such incident took place on 10 July in a higher secondary school in Mohini village of Murshidabad district where half an hour’s time is allowed for offering Friday namaz during lunch time. Since half an hour’s time is insufficient for both namaz and lunch, Muslim students of this school requested the school management to allow one hour’s time on Fridays only but this small request, and that too only once a week, was flatly rejected.

When the students tried to protest against this attitude of the management, communal elements in their eternal anxiety to fish in troubled waters, attacked the agitating Muslims in which one Muslim student was killed. In order to control this situation, police resorted to firing as a result of which two more Muslims were killed and some others were injured. Next day, yet another person who was seriously injured in the previous day’s firing succumbed to his injuries, bringing the number of persons killed to four. Murshidabad's district magistrate Parvez Ahmad Siddiqi did not in any way help Muslims because all those arrested in this connection were Muslims. In all, 15 Muslims were arrested.

Another similar incident had taken place earlier in a school in South 24 Parganas, a Muslim majority area, though no one died in the incident. In this case also, three school teachers had demanded permission for offering Friday namaz but they were not only denied leave but also thrashed and misbehaved with. Surprisingly, all this is happening when one hour’s leave for offering Friday namaz had been allowed since the time of the British government. This fact was admitted by Dr Abdul Sattar, West Bengal's minister for minorities affairs, when he met a delegation of Milli Ittehad Parishad which had gone to meet him in connection with the refusal of time for Friday namaz and also to complain about raping of 26 Muslim women by Rapid Action Force personnel in South 24 Paragnas.

The minister told the delegation members that according to a government order, along with one hour's leave on Fridays, Muslims are also allowed to leave the office two hours early during Ramzan. The question therefore arises that when there are such orders by the government, why school authorities were not instructed to follow these orders? If the school authorities of Murshidabad and South 24 Paragnas had acted on these orders, a situation leading to police and RAF violence would not have arisen.  

Before the two incidents mentioned above, when Lok Sabha election results were being announced on 16th May, there was a political clash in a Muslim majority village of Murshidabad district in which a police jawan was killed. Taking action on his death, Rapid Action Force jawans in revenge attacked this village and Muslims were selectively arrested and thrashed. The jawans forcibly entered the houses of Muslims, looted their properties and thrashed the inmates. Crossing all limits of bestiality, the so-called protectors of law raped 26 Muslim women, including two minor girls. After this incident there was so much panic and fear in the village that in order to save their lives and properties, people of the village fled and took shelter in neighboring villages.

The lone mosque of this village remained empty without azan and namazis. No woman or her kins had the courage to register complaints against these beasts. Somehow only one woman mustered the courage to complain against them but this too had no effect. People were afraid that after making complaint, worse will befall upon them. The perpetrators of crime were roaming freely and there was no one to take action against them.

After these incidents of brutalities and outraging the modesty of women, a representative delegation of Milli Ittehad Parishad, an organisation of Muslims, toured the village to find out the facts. The delegation wanted to meet the DM, Parvez Ahmad Siddiqi but he avoided meeting them on the excuse of preoccupation. Subsequently, the delegation met Abdus Sattar, the state minister for minorities affairs, at Writers Building in Kolkata and through him submitted an application to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya with a demand to take immediate and strong action against the perpetrators of crime. (Translated from Urdu by NA Ansari)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 September 2009 on page no. 13

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