NEW DELHI—The Delhi state president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, which is considered to be one of India’s largest Muslim organisations, is planning to organise a peace meeting involving community elders and opinion makers of Muslims and Hindus to begin a dialogue about restoration of social harmony between the two communities in the national capital.
Maulana Mohammad Dawood, who also looks after the prominent Babul Uloom mosque and madrasa in Jaffrabad, a riot-torn neighbourhood in northeast Delhi, had been actively helping people from both communities during the riots. With violent incidents coming to a halt, he now wishes to work on the process of restoring a lasting peace between people from the two communities.
In multiple interviews with HuffPost India, the maulana confirmed that he will likely organise the meeting early next week and explained his reasons for organising it. “The incident was brief. How long did it last: 2 or 4 days? But the cracks in the heart stay longer,” he observed.
The maulana is clear about how these cracks can be filled. “They can be filled when we meet at a place, sit and have a conversation about why this happened, where did we both go wrong? So when there is a conversation, and mutual assurance about not repeating the mistakes again, then the emotional distance can vanish. It is not such a big thing. We only need to sit together and talk. I will organise this in 2-4 days once both Hindus and Muslims cease to feel fear,” he told this reporter on Friday.
He believes this is also necessary so as to be able to prevent the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens from spoiling relations between Hindus and Muslims. “CAA-NRC have nothing to do with Hindu-Muslim relations. Why should we fight with each other? Why should we end love for each other? We have lived in the same area for years; done business in and eaten together in the same place. So we have to stay united in future as well,” he said.
NO STRANGER TO DIALOGUE
HuffPost India recently reported about the maulana’s attempts to persuade Muslim women at a sit-in protest in Jaffrabad to change their venue to a place which does not cause road jams. He was strongly criticised by most of the protesting women but appeared to have found a sympathetic audience among large sections of the men from the neighbourhood. Whether they agreed with him or not, it was clear that most people at the protest heard him out respectfully when he addressed them.
During the interview with this reporter, he recalled several instances of using the obvious respect that he enjoys in the community to positively intervene in tricky situations. One such situation arose on the afternoon of the second day of the riots, not very far from his madrasa in Jaffrabad, which is a Muslim majority neighbourhood.
“It was the second day of the riots, around 2:30 in the afternoon. A Hindu man, with a tika on his forehead, was travelling on a bullet from Maujpur to Seelampur. Some Muslim boys started beating and slapping him. Since he was wearing a tika on his forehead, identifying him as Hindu became easy,” he recalled.
““He was not attacking someone or there to create trouble. Only passing by. He was like our brother. If he had been severely beaten up or murdered, imagine how outrageous what would have been!””
In no time, he sent youth from the madrasa to stop the violence. “He was not attacking someone or was not there to create trouble. Only passing by. He was like our brother. If he had been severely beaten up or murdered, imagine how outrageous what would have been!” So not only was the attack on the man stopped, a local person was sent accompanying the biker to help him find his way till Seelampur without being attacked.
BY WAY OF ABUNDANT CAUTION
Apart from reflecting an intention to help a person in need, this incident perhaps also shows the maulana’s ability to pre-empt a much larger problem that could arise from an incident. That’s likely because on Friday he made an unusual decision to discontinue prayers by devotees on the road outside his mosque.
Speaking with HuffPost India about it on Friday, the first jumma since riots broke in the capital, he said, “Today I declared that namaaz won’t be read by devotees on the road. Even if it has to be recited twice or thrice to ensure every devotee gets to pray, namaaz will be held inside the mosque only. Because out on the street, someone might throw stones and provoke a fight. So today, no namaazi was outside the mosque to pray. There was no road jam. Why should we do something to inconvenience others?”
This was significant, he explained, because every Friday, when most practising Muslims pray at the same time, one entire section of the street gets blocked for traffic during prayers, which causes jams. Devotees pray on the street because space inside the mosque is not sufficient. The maulana found a way around this problem by having prayers in batches. While one batch of devotees prayed when maulana recited, a second batch prayed when another imam recited. This was so because one preacher can only recite once, he explained.
What makes the maulana’s decision to prevent namaaz on the street further significant is that this is part of the same street on which Muslim women had organised a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens, and were forced to discontinue it due to concerns about road blocks affecting traffic movement. These concerns were raised by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra in a counter-protest in neighbouring Maujpur.
“In all local mosques it has been announced that devotees will not be allowed to pray on the roads. We will make arrangements to hold prayers inside accordingly. It’s because other people get inconvenienced that they end up clashing with us,” he said.
In an earlier interview at the mosque on Wednesday, with his followers and people from the local community present, he also conveyed the “people’s request” that whoever had incited the riots must face punishment so that they can’t do it again.
“Whether one is inciting in the name of Muslims or another is inciting in the name of Hindus. Our brotherhood has been destroyed. We are against them because they are the culprit and should be punished,” he said.
Notably, he also said that the police should punish the guilty. “Whether he is Mohammad, Abdullah, Abdur Rahman or Ram Prasad or Kapil Mishra or some Sharma. Whoever he is, we consider him wrong. Neither is he a lover of his country nor the establishment or society. He just does wrong. Whoever he is,” he said.
While that request remains, his present concern now is starting a dialogue between the two communities at the heart of last week’s riot—Hindus and Muslims. “Going forward, I will make full efforts to have a meeting with our Hindu brothers. Let people cool down a bit. I would like to tell them, “Brother, outsiders will come here opportunistically but we both have to live here. Do business here. So we will have to work together and stay united. If some outsider comes and tries to incite by talking about fighting then reject his effort, ask him to not talk about such things with you,” he said.