A group of students of the GD Goenka University held a protest after a few international students hailing from African nations offered namaaz on the football field. The Indian Express reports that the students chanted slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram” and filed a complaint with the registrar. The incident reportedly took place on August 30.
The registrar, Dr Dhirendra Singh Parihar, told the publication, “8-10 foreign students, mostly from African countries (Nigeria, Ethiopia, etc), were playing football in the field. At the time of prayer, they offered namaz in the field in the open. A group of at most 20 students objected to prayers being offered in the open.” He further said, “The entire incident lasted 15-20 minutes and the matter was resolved amicably after a discussion. The foreign students were sensitised and told that they can offer prayers in their hostel rooms or at a mosque, not in the open.”
It is noteworthy that this protest took place in Gurgaon, a city that has seen a spate of protests against the offering of namaaz in public places. And while on the surface, it might seem that the students were merely demanding that persons from all religions be treated equally with no special provisions for anyone, a cursory glance at the text of the complaint filed by the students with the registrar shows that it has disturbing and discriminatory undertones.
The Indian Express quoted an excerpt from the complaint: “…there should not be any practice of any religion… studying (sic) namaz… in an open space.” The complaint further said, “If they want to study (sic) namaz, then they have to go to their allotted hostel room… especially outsiders are not allowed for worship namaz… they should go to nearby mosque. There should be a class on Friday for all students and no one should get a proxy if they are going (to) worship namaz (sic).” The complaint also asked for segregation of plates used by students based on their diet saying, “There should be different plates categorised as veg or non veg in hostel. The plates should not be mixed.”
The veg vs. non-veg debate adds a not-so-subtle hostile hue to the complaint.
Meanwhile, the university authorities have denied that they had allotted a special room for namaaz, and also denied that the protesting students had any political affiliations.
However, given Gurgaon’s track record when it comes to protesting any public offering of namaaz, one cannot ignore the disturbing undertones of the protest. Readers would recall that Hindutva groups have been protesting Friday namaz in open public spaces in Gurugram since 2018. It was in the same year that the city administration had designated 37 sites for Muslims to perform the Friday prayers. However, in November 2021, the number of sites was cut down to 20 after members of the right-wing outfits continued to protest and disrupt prayers.
The Muslims, however, have maintained that they were forced to use public spaces since there were not enough mosques in the city. Mohammad Adeeb, former Rajya MP and a member of Gurgaon Muslim Council, told SabrangIndia last December, “There is no provision made in the town planning for mosques.” He added that Gurugram has expanded and even then, the spaces for Muslims to build a mosque has not been provided.