A deputy imam has been killed after a mob of far-right Hindus torched and opened fire at a mosque in a suburb of the Indian capital, New Delhi, hours after deadly communal violence in a nearby district.
Police have identified the victim as 19-year-old Maulana Saad, prayer leader of the Anjuman Jama mosque located in Sector 57 in Gurugram, a city of 1.2 million known for its glistening towers and offices of multinational corporations.
Three other people were present, of whom one was injured and two remained unharmed.
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The mosque came under attack by the mob early on Tuesday, a day after violence in neighbouring Nuh district in northern Haryana state.
“A group of 50 to 60 miscreants resorted to firing and arson at Anjum in the early hours of Tuesday, which led to the death of one person and wounded another,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Nitish Agarwal told reporters.“We have arrested a few people, registered an FIR [police report] against them and have launched an investigation into the incident,” Agarwal added.
Gurugram, however, continued to remain tense through the day as mobs roamed the streets, setting fire to scrap shops and vandalising small eateries, most of which belonged to Muslims.
This comes as Hindu far-right groups aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been campaigning against Friday prayers in Gurugram, located in Haryana state. The Anjuman mosque was one of the few places officially recognised to hold prayers.
I am completely numb with what has happened in this so called Millennium City #Gurugram
Our Maulana Saad who has been brutally murdered has not just been killed by the mob who entered the #Masjid but all those who spread Hatred day & night. Each one of them is responsible for it
— Altaf Ahmad (@JoinAltaf) July 31, 2023
Hindu-Muslim clashes in neighbouring district
The incident followed violent clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities in Nuh, where authorities imposed a curfew.
At least four people, including two police personnel, were killed in the clashes in Nuh district.
The violence erupted when a Hindu religious procession passed through the Muslim-majority region.
“The procession was meant to move from one temple to another but clashes broke out between two groups on the way, which resulted in the death of four people,” Krishan Kumar, spokesperson of Nuh police, told Reuters news agency.
He said two of the dead were members of the home guard, a voluntary force that helps police control civil disturbances.
Another 10 police personnel were injured in the clashes, he added.
Several cars were torched and stones were thrown at the police, and the state government sought additional forces to bring the situation under control, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
The police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd.
Authorities have suspended internet services in the area and banned large gatherings.
“Today’s incident is unfortunate. I appeal to all the people to maintain peace in the state. The guilty will not be spared at any cost. Strictest action will be taken against them,” said Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on X, the social media platform earlier known as Twitter.
“Our first priority is to bring the situation under control. We are appealing to all to maintain peace. We are also trying to send forces by helicopter,” said the state’s interior minister, Anil Vij.
‘Genie of hate is out’
Earlier on Monday, a railway security guard was arrested after he allegedly shot dead a colleague and three passengers on a train in what appeared to be a hate crime. But the police have said the suspect, Chetan Singh, had mental health issues.
In one of the videos widely shared on X, Singh could be seen standing next to a blood-soaked body with his rifle in one hand.
“If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” he was heard saying, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state Yogi Adityanath, in one of the videos verified by Al Jazeera.
All the three passengers shot dead were identified as Muslim men.
The fatal shooting has been condemned on social media, with a senior leader from the opposition Indian National Congress party, Jairam Ramesh, calling it “cold-blooded murders”.
“The genie of hate is now out of the bottle and it will take a lot of collective effort to put it back in,” Ramesh said in a tweet.
He laid the blame for “hate and violence” on Modi’s BJP and said its top leaders were “complicit in damaging the social fabric of India”.