ALTAF AHMAD is a Human Rights Activist and Co-founder of Gurugram Nagrik Ekta Manch (Multi-faith Gurugram Citizens Initiative). In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, he said the white-collar workforce going to several MNCs are afraid to go to work safely as violence, threatening, intimidation, etc. has become a new norm in Gurugram (now Gurugram).
What is your reading of the present situation on the ground in Gurugram?
As on 12th August 2023, the violence has not been reported for the past 6-7 days in Gurugram; however sporadic instances of threatening Muslims at the bottom of pyramid continues to happen till date. There has been an exodus of thousands of migrants belonging to the Muslim community from Gurugram, especially those who are maidservants, carpenters, mechanics, welders, fruit sellers, factory workers, etc. and were always the most vulnerable ones to get affected.
There is a feeling of insecurity among Muslims and that is across various groups of class, gender, age, etc. We are aghast by incidents of threatening, intimidating, being asked to vacate houses and shops, etc. being reported from several quarters of Gurugram till date. Miscreants feel emboldened in this polarised environment and have lesser fear of the law and forces.
How do you see the role of local and state administration there?
I feel burning down of the Sector 57 Mosque located in the heart of the city and murdering its Imam is a total failure of intelligence, especially since the communal violence had broken out in a massive way just 40 kms away in the district of Nuh. Moreover, despite 2 PCRs stationed next to the Mosque could do nothing to save the life of Imam Saad who was brutally murdered, set aside the burning of mosque.
The DC has given an assurance that enough Police is present to guard the Masjid but since the precedence gives no assurance of security, we have asked for a full-blown Police Chowki right in front of Anjuman Masjid which is capable to deal with any such repeat incident.
What is your organisation doing to ensure safety and security of Muslims there?
Safety and Security is the job of State and Administration, we are ensuring that we are working along with them so help reaches either the most impacted areas or the section of society which is most vulnerable.
Is there any effort from any section or group to control the situation and restore peace there?
NGOs and other social groups have not yet come forward on the ground owing to the fear of being attacked themselves. However, some Khap Panchayats have made strong statements against the hatred and violence being spread in Gurugram.
The Muslim Community has asked Police to engage with NGOs and relevant groups who can foster an environment of brotherhood, harmony and peace in affected areas of Gurugram more effectively. And several of them are ready to execute their plans on ground but at the same time they are scared for their own security.
What will be the impact on Gurugram if the Muslim labourers migrate to other places because of fear and insecurity?
There has been an exodus of thousands of migrants from Gurugram belonging to the Muslim community, especially those who work as maidservants, carpenters, mechanics, welders, fruit sellers, factory workers, etc. and were always the most vulnerable ones to get affected.
There is a visible impact owing to the migrant workers leaving the city of Gurugram. Several residential houses and societies where Muslim women worked as Maids and Cooks had to leave overnight and hence most of the households are impacted in Gurugram. The housekeeping staff hasn’t come in societies for cleaning or picking up of garbage and there is a huge struggle to keep these societies maintained. Some of the luxurious condominiums of Gurugram are struggling with the upkeep of their properties.
Similarly, the factory workers who had fled are being promised stays along with security so they can get them back to work. The white-collar workforce (across faiths) working in several MNCs are afraid to go to work safely as violence, threatening, intimidation, etc. has become a new norm in Gurugram.
Carpenters, Welders, Construction workers, Fruit sellers, etc. leaving the town has caused huge loss to the businesses too. Be it Suppliers, Wholesalers, Distributors, their Sale has nose-dived as raw material was getting supplied through the retail chain to these migrants.
What will be Gurugram in the absence of Muslims and what has been the contribution of Muslims in Gurugram?
Gurugram has been developing at a fast pace and has often been referred to as the Millennium City of India. High rise residential buildings, swanky offices, malls, restaurants, hotels, etc. have been the hallmark of this city; however, behind all this glitz and glamour has been the hard work and sweat of these migrant labourers. Some of these migrants are extremely skilled in the jobs of carpentry, fabrication, interiors, etc. as Muslims have been doing such jobs for generations and their craft is unmatched.
The absence of these Muslims who have fled for their lives after violence, threat and intimidation has put brakes on the growth story of the millennium city. Factories, Business Houses, Property Developers, Market Associations, RWAs, etc. have all reached out to the Administration of Gurugram for a quick resolution as they are all impacted by the sudden exodus from the city.