Police Bandobast Was Not Sufficient, Says Imam of Torched Bihar Mosque

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Ram Navami rally participants burn thousands of Quran copies and other Islamic books in the century-old madrassa in Bihar Sharif

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI  — Thousands of copies of the Holy Quran and other Islamic books were torched and reduced to ashes when a century-old madrassa and a mosque were set on fire on Friday during Ram Navami violence in Bihar Sharif in the Nalanda District of Bihar.

Mohammed Shahabuddin, imam of the partially burnt mosque, told Clarion India over the phone that the police bandobast for the Ram Navami’s Shobha Yatra was not sufficient. “What could a few police officials do to control the violent mob of about 50 to 60 thousand people?” he asked. 

The rally initially remained peaceful and clashes erupted only when some Muslim members of the peace committee were misbehaved by the yatra participants. Some Muslims were reportedly forced to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and beaten up when they refused, the imam said.

“First, a rioting mob of the crowd attacked the mosque and its video went viral. A tempo carrying water, 3-4 bikes, vegetable and fruit godowns and a tailor shop was set on fire in the mosque campus. When the rallyists tried to barge into the mosque, I tried to stop them politely. But the mob forcibly entered the mosque and vandalized and torched properties,” he said.

As the mosque was under attack, Shahabuddin and some worshippers locked themselves inside and put up a defense against the mob. They got minor injuries. The mob was chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and other provocative slogans. The mob hurled petrol bombs at the mosque and some neighbouring homes and a madrassa.

The mosque is inside the campus of Madrassa Azizia which was established in 1910. The madrassa imparts education to students from Ustania to Fazil. It has books for all these classes. Over 4,500 books including copies of the Holy Quran, Hadith, and other Islamic books were burnt down.

“The main office of the madrassa was set on fire. The office had cupboards full of books. They were all reduced to ashes,” the imam said.

All madrassa students were on leave due to Ramadan. As the unruly crowd became violent and indulged in arson, no one was in the madrassa except for a Hindu guard named Bahadur. He fled for his life, but the hooligans forcibly took away Rs 3,000 from his pocket. There was also a cook inside the madrassa who was preparing the Iftar meant for distributing to the poor. The mob also assaulted the cook. Later, he was rescued by some people.

Shahabuddin said that the situation is now improving. They are offering their namaz under police protection. When the rioting was being carried out, there were only a few police officials in the area. 

On Sunday, the police arrested 77 persons and lodged 11 FIRs, reports reaching here said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that the government will take strict action against the rioters. Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for disturbing the state’s peace and amity.

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