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'We Don’t Look Each Other In the Eye Anymore': How It Feels to be a Muslim in Today’s Rajsamand

Several Muslims, including those from West Bengal just like Shambhulal’s victim, left the city. While the natives have now returned, the migrant labourers say they will not return till Mamata Banerjee assures them of their safety.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:December 28, 2017, 5:05 PM IST
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'We Don’t Look Each Other In the Eye Anymore': How It Feels to be a Muslim in Today’s Rajsamand
VHP activists holding a rally in support of Shambhulal Regar. (Image: Suhas Mumshi)
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Rajsamand: On the morning of December 6, Iqbal Khan, a Rajsamand based businessman, was called upon by the police to identify a body. Near the body, he was told, a motorcycle was found bearing ‘786’, and star and crescent stickers. The dead was likely to be a Muslim.

“When I reached the spot what I saw was a charred lump of flesh being torn apart by street dogs. I had no idea of who he was. Even if I were someone I knew, it would have been impossible to find out,” Khan said.

A few hours later he received a WhatsApp message. It was a video of Shambhulal hacking Mohammed Afrazul and later setting him on fire.

“Main teen din tak nahi soya uske baad. Ek dehshat ka mahaul ban gaya hai idhar. [I did not sleep for three nights after seeing that video. There is an atmosphere of terror],” Khan says.

Mohammed Rafiq, another Muslim resident of Rajsamand adds, “Hum ab ek duusre se aakhein nahi milate. Us raaste se ab hum nahi jaate. Aisa mahaul pehle nahi tha [We Muslims and Hindus don’t look each other in the eye anymore. We don’t go past that road where Shambhulal murdered Afrazul. This sort of atmosphere wasn’t there before].”

“We were together the whole night. There is a lot of anger and suspicion among the people here. But we’re constantly appealing for peace,” said Feroze Khan, a lawyer based in Rajsamand.

Munobar Ashraf Khan, an office bearer in Anjuman, a Muslim religious body, in Udaipur talked about the time when his 13-year-old daughter showed him the video of Afrazul’s murder on her phone.

“Meri bachhi ne dikhaya tha mujhe. Uski zehni haalat theek nahi thi wo video dekhkar. Fir wohi video news channel pe bhi chalne laga. Hum log kaafi dar gaye the. Padosiyon ke ghar sone chale gaye the [My daughter showed me the video of Afrazul’s murder. Her mental state wasn’t good after it. Then all of us saw the video on a news channel. We were quite scared. Went to sleep in neighbour’s house].”

Several Muslims, including those from West Bengal just like Shambhulal’s victim, left the city. While the natives have now returned, the migrant labourers say they will not return till Mamata Banerjee assures them of their safety.

“There were around 30-35 of us who fled immediately. Among us are several Hindus also. They also fear for their lives. We have worked in Rajsamand for last 15 years but never imagined something like this would happen. Contractors there owe us our salaries. In the rush to leave we’ve also left behind our machines and belongings. But we won’t return for all these till Mamata Banerjee gives us a go ahead,” said Najidul.

In the din of communal hatred around Shambhulal Regar, Muslim voices from within the BJP have also started speaking up against the insecurity they now feel. This is what Tanveer, the head of BJP-run Mewar Kshatriya Mahasabha, had to say about the recent developments.

“Baarud ke dher pe bitha diya hai hame. Kaunsa Hindustan hai ye? Yahan jawan bachhe hain jinhe aaj tak maalum nahi tha curfew kya hota hai. Ye aane waale samay ke liye khatarnaak sanket hain. Shambhu koi swatantra sainani nahi tha. Uski puuja kyun ho rahi hai?”

“[We’re sitting on a gunpowder keg. What India is this? There are young children here who did not know till today what a curfew is. These are bad omens of the coming times. Shambhulal was not a freedom fighter. Why have people begun worshipping him?]”

A senior cleric in Udaipur said that fires have been stoked both ways. Not willing to share his name, the cleric said that not only has he now to appeal for peace from the community at large, he has been asking young bloods from his own community to keep their tempers under check and shun the fancies of revenge.

“Children have come to me saying ‘we’ll take care of things’. Now I am firefighting on two ends. They’re saying unless we act now there will be nothing left to fight for in future. I have been asking them to concentrate on studies. For the first time in my life my grandchildren are asking me about the faith and belief of their Hindu friends. Look what has happened to this society.”
| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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