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Attack on mosque in India ignites fears of a larger communal design

Attack on mosque in India ignites fears of a larger communal design

Early on Tuesday, anxiety gripped the town of Faizabad as word spread about a prominent mosque being set afire by unidentified miscreants the previous night.

A part of the Madani Masjid, located in Faizabad's Mughalpura locality, was gutted in the attack. The mosque houses a madrasa and the local office of Jamat-e-Ulema Hind, a national organisation of Muslim clerics.

According to the First Information Report registered on August 18, the attack occurred around 11.30 pm on August 17. “Bottles full of petrol were thrown inside the mosque which was then set on fire," the FIR said. "One portion of the mosque that housed religious texts and books of madrasa was completely burnt down."

Qari Badshah, the imam of the mosque, told over the phone that he informed the police as soon as he noticed flames. "But the police took nearly two hours to reach the spot even though the kotwali [police station] is merely 500 meters away,” he said.

The enraged imams of the town, Muslim clerics and locals of Faizabad held a meeting at Madani Masjid in the afternoon of August 18 and resolved to organise a bandh if the district administration did not take “appropriate actions” in next 48 hours, the imam said. He added, “All those present in the meeting also took extra care not to do anything that might help the communal elements.”

The attack is not an isolated case. Over the last few weeks, developments seemingly aimed at igniting communal tension have also taken place in other areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

On August 5, for example, Belesra subdivision of Ballia district witnessed a communal flare up following reports of a relationship between a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl. Earlier, on July 12, over 150 people attacked Muslim households of Nagar Newaju Rai village of Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh. One person was killed and scores injured.

In both of these cases, locals blame the police for inaction or delayed action. They say that there has been no communal tension in the area since Independence.

Even Faizabad, the latest flashpoint, has mostly remained calm for the last year and and a half, since a series of communal incidents during the period preceding the Lok Sabha elections. The tension started in October 2012, when a mob attacked Muslim shops, houses and a 19th-century mosque in the town. Minor incidents continued for months.

But the strains were heightened on December 20, 2013, when a bunch of unidentified miscreants damaged the mausoleum of Hazrat Shish Paigambar, a dargah in nearby Ayodhya. That night, a young man called Mohammad Danish was found murdered in the Jinnati Masjid, 500 meters away from the dargah.

Many in Faizabad wonder if the latest attack on Madani Masjid marks the beginning of another phase of communal politics ahead of the UP assembly election, which are due only in May 2017.

This article was originally published on and has been reproduced with permission.

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