Tuesday 22nd Jan 2019
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Police Action in Tonk Jama Masjid



It was on 11 July when Muslims of Tonk in Rajasthan were offering Maghrib Salat (Prayer after sunset) at the Chhawni Jama Masjid, after completing their second fast of the month of Ramadhan. A Baraat procession came from the nearby ‘Keer’ Hindu locality playing D.J. in loud voice. They stayed a bit longer in front of the mosque. As the D.J. sound was disturbing the people inside the mosque, some of them came out and requested the Keers not to play the D.J. in front of the mosque. The Keers insisted on playing it and a hot conversation took place which converted into conflict and then stone pelting from both sides began. The police came and controlled the situation. The situation was under control but the atmosphere remained tense.

Next day, on 12 July, it was Friday; hence the Muslims gathered at the Chhawni Jama Masjid in order to offer special Friday (Juma) Prayers. Huge Police Force was deployed along with RAC and STF personnel. The Juma prayers went peacefully and people came out of the mosque. According to eye witnesses, all was peaceful and under control and the people were heading towards their homes. All of a sudden, without any provocation, about 150 policemen (including RAC and STF) stormed into the mosque breaking the back door of the adjacent Madrasa and instantaneously fired a number of teargas shells straight on the people offering Namaz in the mosque.

One of the shells hit a youth Nasir in his face, who died on the spot and another was injured critically. Then the police resorted to ‘lathi charge’ and started beating every one irrespective of his age. An eye witness said that a Muslim police officer, who was praying at the mosque, was also thrashed by the STF. When he managed to run away and entered his nearby house, the STF Jawans followed him and fired a teargas shell into his house through a window, after he shut his doors. They didn’t spare even the Imam of the Jama Masjid, who happens to be a respectable figure in the city. Two died and about 80 people were injured. The person died other than Nasir could not be recognised, as the police took him away in a very serious condition and he didn’t belong to Tonk. The police are silent about that person’s identity and about where he was taken.

A joint delegation of the Rajasthan Muslim Forum (RMF), Sadbhav Manch Rajasthan (SM Raj.) and Peoples Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) visited the violence-hit Chhawni area of the Tonk City on 14 July. The persons comprising the delegation were Engineer Khurshid Husain, State Chief Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Muhammed Nazimuddeen and Aalam Khan, members RMF, Professor M. Hasan, Chairman IRADA Society, Master Shamsuddeen, Chairman Human Welfare Society, Engineer Rashid Husain and Rajendra Kumbhaj from PUCL, Satish Advocate from Dalit Adhikar Kendra, Sawai Singh, Convener SM Raj. and Mujeeb Azad, Member SM Tonk.

A joint press conference was held on 16 July which was addressed by Engineer Mohd. Saleem, National Secretary JIH, Prof. M. Hasan, Mr. Sawai Singh, Convener SM Raj. and Ms. Kavita Shrivastava, Gen Secretary PUCL Rajasthan.

The leaders observed that a sick mentality of hatred towards Muslims is developing among the police forces including the special forces like RAC and STF, as some of the victims told the delegation that while brutally thrashing the people inside the mosque, the STF men were shouting “bula tere Allah ko” (call your God), “bula tere roze ko” (call your fast), i.e. ‘call them to save you from us’.

Though, SP Mrs. Parimala told the delegation that the police attacked after stone pelting began from the roof of the mosque, which the delegation found difficult, as there was only one way to reach the roof through the narrow minaret and through which one thin person could pass at a time. The delegation found no signs of passing anyone earlier from the staircase, as there were cobwebs on the walls of the minaret which stuck on the clothes of a delegation member who managed to reach to the roof top. Hence, the police attacked without any provocation or may be instigated by the communal elements, who were provoking the Keer community.

However, the police and administrative officers could not reply what the reason of entering the mosque and taking action there was. When asked who was injured by the stones thrown allegedly from the mosque, the officers replied that only an ASP was injured. That is strange! The delegation was of the opinion that this was the sheer repetition of the Gopalgarh (Bharatpur) incident where on 14 September 2011, 10 Muslims were gunned down by the police, though the situation could not deteriorate to that extent.

It is an annoying fact that in a number of incidents of violence, including Sarada (Udaipur), Balesar (Jodhpur), Manohar Thana (Jhalawar) and Soorwal (Sawai Madhopur), no action was taken against the culprit police officers as well as the rioters. Instead, the Muslims were arrested one sided in most of the cases and false charges were framed against them. According to JIH national secretary Er. Mohd. Saleem, had the culprit police officers been punished in earlier incidents, this Tonk incident would not have occurred. The SP stated that the STF force became out of control. That is very alarming; if an organised team of trained personnel goes out of control, they can do a great harm. Such a team should be treated as a criminal gang and be punished accordingly.

The delegation demanded that an independent inquiry about the whole incident be done, the culprit police and administrative officers be removed and administrative action be taken against them, also criminal cases be filed against them. The role of the District Collector be investigated in this whole episode. The deceased Nasir’s family be compensated with Rs. 25 lakh and one of his kin be given a government job.

Nevertheless, complete reform of our police is the need of the hour and they must be taught humanity and communal harmony.

[The writer is Media Secretary, JIH, Rajasthan. He can be reached at miqbal1959@gmail.com]

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