18/09/2018 1:02 PM IST | Updated 18/09/2018 1:02 PM IST

Why '5,000' Hindu Residents Of A Gurgaon Locality Have Hoisted Saffron Flags At Their Homes

Last week, a mosque in a three-storied building in Gurgaon's Sheetla Mata Colony was sealed following protests from the locals.

Rajeev Mittal
Saffron flags hoisted at the Sheetla Mata Colony.

The spokesperson of a Hindutva organisation told HuffPost India that the residents of Sheetla Mata Colony, in Gurgaon, Haryana have hoisted saffron flags with 'Om' printed on them in their homes to protest against Muslim groups who have demanded that a mosque recently sealed by local civic authorities be reopened.

Haji Shahzad Khan, who heads an organisation called Muslim Ekta Manch, confirmed the news and said that Muslim residents of the area informed him about the flags and that he has witnessed them.

Rajeev Mittal, spokesperson of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti (SHSS), told HuffPost India, "Around 5,000 houses in the locality and around have put up these flags. They are not flags of any group, they are just saffron flags that represent the unity of the Hindus against the recent developments," he said. Mittal said that his organisation had not distributed the flags, but locals have sourced them from markets in Delhi where they are widely sold.

However, a press release Mittal sent HuffPost India on WhatsApp stated that the people have put up the saffron flags following a call to do so by Hindutva groups.

Khan told HuffPost India, "Like a person awarded the death penalty lives their last days in dread, the Muslims in the area are living like that. There's a new directive which has reached the Muslims in the area from the Hindutva groups asking them to vacate shops and homes in the locality," he said.

SHSS also participated in a 'panchayat' held in the premises of the Sheetla Mata temple. The meeting was presided over by Hindu preacher Swami Vivekanand Giri.

Last week, the mosque in a three-storied building in Gurgaon's Sheetla Mata Colony was sealed, allegedly following protests from locals about the volume at which azan was recited. Hindutva groups backed the locals and according to them, an investigation revealed that the authorities did not have adequate permission to run a mosque in that building.

Mittal added that people in the neighbourhood informed them that they were anguished over the dispute and with Muslim groups continuously protesting against its sealing.

"Then an activist of the Bhim Sena threatened violence if the mosque is not reopened and said blood will be spilled if it doesn't open soon. The Hindu families are showing their unity against these forces," he said.

SHSS also participated in a 'panchayat' held in the premises of the Sheetla Mata temple. The meeting was presided over by Hindu preacher Swami Vivekanand Giri.

Khan added that they were not protesting yet as Haryana's PWD minister Narbir Singh has assured them the matter would be addressed. "The Muslim residents of the area are mostly migrant labourers. They come from far-off villages to work as daily wage labourers. They cannot waste days protesting, however unfair things are," he said.

Amir Hasan, the chief of Congress' youth wing in Haryana, told HuffPost India that some 'fringe elements' were making a big deal about a dispute which had not started off bitterly in the first place. "The locals simply wanted the volume of the azan to be lowered and few of the loudspeakers pulled down," he said.

He added that the party has approached the divisional commissioner of Gurgaon to look into the issue. "If the construction of the mosque is illegal, then all the structures around should be illegal by those standards. If all of them are pulled down, the mosque will be too. But why target just the mosque?" he said. He added that the members of the Muslim Ekta Manch, including Khan, have approached the commissioner to de-seal the building and are also in the process of submitting the paperwork demanded for the purpose.

"This issue shouldn't be blown up. Everyone should take a few steps to resolve this amicably," he said.

Saba Dewan, who began the movement 'Not In My Name' and is a member of the Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch, told HuffPost India that the administration is bending over backwards to please Hindutva groups and the SHSS. Dewan, who visited the divisional commissioner's office on 14 September, said the commissioner told them that he found the sealing discriminatory and the mosque would be reopened later in the day. He announced the same to the media the same day, said Dewan. Which explains why The Hindu carried an article on the same day reporting that the mosque has been de-sealed. However, later, the commissioner's office informed Dewan that the de-sealing could not happen as the authorities were following a Punjab & Haryana High Court order against construction within a certain distance of the Indian Air Force ammunition depot in Gurgaon.

Dewan said that local Muslim families had told members of the Gurgaon Ekta Manch that their Hindu neighbours—most of them migrant labourers and workers like themselves—did not actively oppose the azan. Rather, members of Hindutva groups had been visiting houses and constantly badgering them to protest against the Muslim residents.

"The Muslims in the area are living in great fear. They are being pushed around and threatened and they are all poor labourers. The Hindus are bothered as well and we don't think they want to create trouble as well," she said.