For the first time in 40 years, Friday prayers not conducted at Ashok Nagar mosque

People offering namaz on the roof of a mosque in the city on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Altaf Qadri

For the first time in over 40 years, Friday prayers were not held at Masjid Maula Baksh in north-east Delhi’s Ashok Nagar. The mosque was vandalised and saffron flag was hoisted on top of it during the violence on February 25.

A video recorded on Tuesday showed three persons climbing atop the minaret and sticking a saffron flag. The video, a grim representation of the riots, went viral.

On Friday afternoon, groups of people belonging to Hindu community stood outside the mosque as Central Industrial Security Force officials guarded it. A man wearing teeka on his forehead approached this reporter and asked for her identity and why she was there. The person then said, “Yahan sab theek hai, aap jaiye. Apko sirf Masjid hi dikhani hai, koi mandir nahin dikhta apko [Everything is fine here, you leave. You only want to show mosques and not any temples],” he said.

When asked why the groups were standing, a resident who identified himself as Sandeep said: “Aisa sunne main aaraha ki jumme ki namaz ke baad ye kuch karenge [We have heard that they’ll do something after the Friday prayers].”

Right behind the mosque, on a street, what reminded of a few houses were broken doors, burnt bikes and belongings. The houses belonged to the minority community while those of others remained untouched. It was learnt that the families got scared and left after the violence to safer places and haven’t returned permanently though they have visited to take stock of the situation.

The street also houses a Delhi Police official’s residence.

In one of the streets behind the mosque stood 21-year-old Nadeem, perhaps the only one from his community who had stayed back to take of his multiple storey house. His Hindu neighbours and friends made sure that he is fine and fed.

In the grip of fear

Nadeem, a first year B.A. student, said, his entire family including his parents, brothers and sister-in-law has gone to stay with her sister in Ghaziabad and he hasn’t stepped out of the house for three days.

“My friends from the Hindu community are staying with me at night. On Wednesday night, four-five men wearing helmets and carrying sticks knocked on our door. My friends went outside and told them that it’s their house after which they left. My friends are only taking care of my food,” he said.

Nadeem said that on Thursday, members of about 35 Muslim families who reside in the locality had come to the mosque to take stock of the damage and how to rebuild it. But men wearing black masks came and stood outside, creating fear.

“About 10-15 of them stood outside. They were outsiders. There were no policemen. We then went to Jyoti Nagar police station and reported the matter after which they sent security officials,” he said. “It was earlier decided that we’ll hold the Friday prayers but after yesterday’s [Thursday] situation, it was decided by the elders and Imam sahab that it should not be held.”

Traces of vandalisation

Inside the mosque, what’s left is blackened walls with smoke and pieces of broken furniture lying around. The Municipal Corporation officials cleared the debris from outside on Friday afternoon. As the reporter went inside, a group of locals followed and threatened her to delete the pictures and leave the premises. The CISF officials who were stationed right outside entered the scene five minutes later after the argument ended; the group was then asked to disperse.

Talking about the day, Nadeem said that a person identified as Jitender, whom he called bhaiya, tried to stop the men who were vandalising and burning the mosque but the rioters pelted stones at Jitender’s house instead.

As the clock struck 1.35 p.m., Nadeem looked at the watch and said: “Nazam to masjid main hogi nahin, main ghar pe hi padhunga [Namaz won’t happen in the mosque, I’ll pray at home].”

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An earlier version of the article mentioned Ashok Nagar as Ashok Vihar. We regret the error.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 9:49:57 AM |

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