More than 150 FIRs have been lodged from both sides and approximately 150 arrests have been made from Bhainsasur, Kashit Takiya, Kona Sarai, Badi Dargah, Khasganj, Gagan Diwan, Sherpur, Kanta Peer and Sufi Nagar areas. Some of these places are not even close to the areas where Hindutva forces carried out the violence
Ghazala Ahmad | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — Authorities in Bihar Sharif town in Nalanda District of Bihar are accused of arbitrarily arresting scores of Muslim minors and youths after the century-old Madrasa Azizia was vandalised and burnt down by Hindutva fanatics during a rally on the occasion of Ram Navami on March 31.
Armed Hindutva zealots participating in the Ram Navami rally threw petrol bombs at the madrasa complex housing a mosque and burnt hundreds of copies of the Holy Quran. They also set fire to the madrasa library containing more than 4,000 Islamic books and other office stationery.
The madrasa was established by Bibi Sogra in memory of her late husband Abdul Aziz. She was one of the most charitable and respected women in the history of Bihar.
Violence also erupted in some other parts of the town, including Gagan Diwan Qabristan, Laheri Thana area, Badi Dargah area and Ustad Dargah as Ram Navami processions turned unruly and Hindutva protagonists attacked various Muslim institutions.
Families of the arrested youth claim that on the pretext of investigation, Bihar Police was picking up Muslims at midnight.
As the madrasa came under attack, several young Muslims reportedly went out to help the police and the authorities to douse the fire. Oddly, they were arrested later ostensibly to investigate the incident.
Faiyaz (30) and Meraj (40), along with caretakers of the madrasa, were among those who risked their lives in dousing the fire. Later, the duo was arrested. The police, strangely, arrested Rehan, the 13-year-old son of Meraj.
Speaking to Clarion India over the phone, Mohammed Zameer Haider Khan, Faiyaz’s father said: “We got to know of the arson at the madrasa. Both of my sons (Faiyaz and Meraj) rushed to the place to offer help in containing the fire.”
Later, he said: “Around midnight, the police entered our house using a ladder and picked up both of them (Faiyaz and Meraj) and me. Later they let me go and took my grandson Rehan who is a minor and was sleeping at home. Faiyaz and Meraj are now under police custody and Rehan has been sent to the Juvenile Correction Centre.”
Zameer also accused women police of harassing and intimidating womenfolk of his family.
“When the police came to arrest us, women members of my family protested and asked the reason for our arrest. The female cops attacked them with a baton and misbehaved with them.”
Families of those picked up have not been told the reasons for the arrest. They have been told that the arrests were only for investigation purposes.
Zameer said, “Police have not given any information to us regarding the arrests. They only said they will match their faces to ascertain whether they were involved in violence or not.”
Another minor, Tayyab (15), a resident of Kona Sarai, has been sent to the Juvenile Correction Centre after he was picked up from his home at 1 am on April 3.
His uncle told Clarion India, “We have no information on the reasons for his arrest. We only know that is in police custody.”
At least nine persons have been arrested from Mohalla Khas Ganj, an area two kilometres away from the madrasa.
Mohd. Akbar (25) was sitting at home on April 3 when the police barged into his house and took him to the police station for “interrogation.”
Arshad Iraqui, his relative, told Clarion India: “Our home is not even close to the area where violence unfolded. The Aziziya Madrasa is almost 2 kms away from here and at the time of the violence we were having Iftar. There is no possibility that Akbar was at the site of violence.”
“But police arrested him without any reason. They said they will let him go after interrogation but he is yet to come back home”, he said.
When they went to inquire about him in the local thana they got to know that an FIR has been lodged against him and he has been sent to Deep Nagar Jail.
“We don’t know about the sections imposed on him but the police have sent him to jail. We are yet to receive the copy of the FIR”, Iraqui said.
Local authorities blamed the police administration for doing a ‘one-sided’ and ‘biased’ investigation.
Speaking to Clarion India over the phone, Danish Malik, Deputy Mayor of Bihar Sharif, said over 100 FIRs have been filed; most of them filed by the police themselves.
He also complained that the police picked up people without any evidence. A majority of the approximately 150 people arrested so far belong to the Muslim community. They include several minors.
More than 150 FIRs have been lodged from both sides and approximately 150 arrests have been made from Bhainsasur, Kashit Takiya, Kona Sarai, Badi Dargah, Khasganj, Gagan Diwan, Sherpur, Kanta Peer and Sufi Nagar areas. Some of these places are not even close to the areas where Hindutva forces carried out the violence.
Malik maintained that it was Iftar time when violent incidents took place in various parts of the city and it was next to impossible that Muslims were present there. But police are arresting mostly Muslims.”
He asked if violence takes place at India Gate, will they arrest people from Jamia Nagar, which is not even in the vicinity of India Gate?”
Malik also blamed Dr. Sunil, Bhartiya Janata Party MLA for instigating and preparing the ground for violence before Ram Navami.
“The local MLA installed banners with the wording ‘Bihar Sharif Ayodhya Banega (Bihar Sharif will become Ayodhya)’ in the entire town before the festival. He is notorious for indulging in communal violence.”
“Police have completely failed to provide proper security and safety to the citizens before and after the incident,” Malik said.
He also believes that the police provides impunity to miscreants. He said that they (the police) knew that the situation was sensitive since there was violence during Ram Navami last year too. “They should have taken precautionary measures, but they didn’t”, he said.
While the police are conducting an investigation, some voluntary organisations are working to make conditions liveable for people who incurred heavy losses as their properties were damaged in the violence.
Miles2Smile, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), is providing rehabilitation and assistance to the affected people, Aasif Mujataba, founder of the NGO and a social activist, told Clarion India.
“This (the violence) is not an isolated incident; it is part of a larger conspiracy against Muslims in the country”, he said.
“First of all, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure the safety of its citizens. They have failed in doing this time and again,” he said.
It was the State’s responsibility, he averred, to assist the affected persons. “Unfortunately, Muslims are on their own in this country,” he said in disappointment.
“We are working on the ground and will provide, medical, legal and financial help to the affected people”, he added.
Meanwhile, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) delegation led by Akhtarul Imam, president of Bihar unit, was stopped from visiting the violence-hit Bihar Sharif on Thursday. In a tweet, he also accused the state government of administrative failure.
However, normalcy seems to be coming back to Bihar Sharif. But the internet suspension and Section 144 are still in force.