Every Friday, Dinesh Bharti and other activists drive around Gurgaon, interrupting and harassing Muslims praying outside, in the latest illustration of sectarian tensions under the Hindu nationalist government in India.
Muslims praying in public “create problems in the country and around the world”, launches this man of forty years, red tilak on the forehead indicating that he is a devout member of the majority religion of the country.
Since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, groups that view India as a Hindu-first nation and its Muslim minority of 200 million as potentially dangerous outsiders have grown emboldened.
Gurgaon is a modern satellite city near the capital New Delhi, and serves as home or workplace for 500,000 Muslims.
The city has only 15 mosques to accommodate them, but the local government has refused to build more, even as the number of Hindu temples has increased.
This situation forced the community to hold its “namaz”, Friday prayers, in open spaces.
In recent years, Hindu groups have sprayed places of worship with cow dung and called worshipers « Pakistani » or « terrorists », leading local authorities to reduce the number of authorized places of worship in full. air.
« More tolerated »
Earlier this month, the chief minister of Haryana state, a member of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said outside prayers « will no longer be tolerated » in Gurgaon.
Shattering their argument that religion could only be practiced indoors, Hindu groups staged a religious festival last Friday, setting up a makeshift temple and community kitchen to feed hundreds of people under the air of religious music.
At the other end of the city, hundreds of Muslims were queuing up to take turns praying at one of the six prayer sites still available.
At another site, Muslims were heckled and forced to chant Hindu nationalist slogans.
« If the government does not find a solution to the problem … it will get complicated and become serious », said Sabir Qasmi, a Muslim present at the prayer meeting.
Narendra Modi is a longtime member of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and was briefly banned from the United States due to religious riots in Gujarat (west) in 2002, when he was the head of this state.
Since he came to power, a series of lynchings and other heinous crimes have been carried out against Muslims by Hindu mobs, sowing fear and despair within this community.
Several states have passed laws criminalizing conversion to Christianity and Islam, including through marriage – or “love jihad,” as Hindu zealots call it.
According to Hindu activists in Gurgaon, these public places where Muslims congregate pose a « security » risk, cause traffic problems and prevent children from playing cricket.
But critics say Muslims simply have no place in Modi’s intolerant new India, where Hindu zealots dictate government policy.
For political commentator Arati R. Jerath, there is a desire to transform pluralistic and secular India into a « Hindu country », with the tacit government support.
« Whether it is economic spaces or spaces for worship, or spaces for food and customs or anything that has a Muslim identity, this will be part of the project », Jerath told AFP.
On Sunday, the leader of a Hindu coordination group proposed a solution: the conversion of Muslims.
« They will have their temples to pray and this question (of prayer) will end », said Mahaveer Bhardwaj, president of Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti.