Hands in Handcuffs

GURGAON, APRIL 28: Six men accused of obstructing a prayer congregation in the city last week were arrested on Thursday after a video clip of the incident was shared widely across several social media platforms.

The group had arrived on bikes while afternoon prayers were on at a field in Sector 43 on April 20 and asked the congregation to leave. In the 83-second clip, one can see the men getting off bikes, shouting “Jai Shri Ram” and “Radhe Radhe” and laugh at the congregation of around 100 people who are kneeling on a carpeted ground.

One of the men evidently shot the video, in which some of them can be heard saying, “Masjid kisliye banaya hai? (what do you have a mosque for?)” in the background.

Tall buildings can be seen at a distance. The people who were praying are then seen standing up and dispersing quietly. One man, who appears to be their leader, can be seen trying to reason with the intruders but he gets surrounded by them and is told to “return to their native states”.

By April 25, police had identified the suspects with the help of the video and other CCTV footage. They were booked them under sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 296 (disturbing religious assembly) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.

Police identified the suspects as Arun, Manish, Deepak and Monu, residents of Wazirabad village, and Mohit and Ravinder, residents of Kanhai. They will be produced before court again on May 10. “We’d received a complaint about a Friday prayer congregation being disrupted by anti-social elements. After initial investigation, we registered a case against six people, all of whom were arrested and sent to judicial custody,” said Gurgaon police spokesperson Ravinder Kumar.

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The FIR was registered on the complaint of Wajid Khan, chairman of a local trust. “We’ve been offering Friday prayers on an open ground near gate number 1 of Ardee City, close to Paras Hospital, for the last 10-12 years, without any disturbance,” said Khan, adding there is no market or residential complex in the vicinity, and no one had raised any objection to the congregation all these years.

He said it all changed around three weeks ago, when a group of men arrived during Friday prayers, and threatened the imam and others gathered there that they would stop prayer meets on this ground. “We ignored the incident, but on April 20, the same group again arrived during Friday prayers. This time, they disrupted our meet, started abusing us and shouted slogans of another religion,” said Khan, adding that fearing further disturbance, they submitted a memorandum to police on Monday.

Former Wazirabad headman Sube Singh Bohra said police had acted in haste. “They should have tried to resolve the issue by organising a meeting between village elders and everyone concerned,” said Singh, adding villagers had no objection to anyone offering prayers but it should be done at a designated place.

Bohra also said the Sector 43 land on which Friday prayers were being offered belonged to Huda. “They have no permission for prayers on government land. Village youths only asked them to not conduct prayers on that land. No one was abused or harmed,” said a villager elder, who requested not to be named. He said police was under pressure to act because the video had spread on social media.

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