India-Junagadh: Muslims ‘Targeted’, ‘Flogged’ After Protest Over Possible Dargah Demolition


Police say 180 people have been detained for protesting the notice sent to the Majewadi Gate dargah.

New Delhi/Junagadh, Gujarat: On June 14, the Junagadh municipal corporation sent a notice to the administration of the Majewadi Gate dargah, demanding that they produce ownership papers of property before June 19.

However, on June 16, around 10 pm, at least 500 people gathered around the Majewadi Gate dargah to protest the possible demolition of the Islamic shrine as police surrounded the premises. As the number of protesters increased, police presence also escalated in the area, stirring tensions and stone pelting.

Videos of Muslim men being publicly flogged right outside the dargah also surfaced on social media. The videos show a few Muslim men made to stand in a line, with a masked man flogging them right outside the dargah. The flogger took intervals to beat them, amidst loud screams from the victims.

Chaos and confusion

On the night of June 16, when more than 500 locals gathered, the police began lathi-charging protestors and deployed tear gas shells to break the protest. Reshma Mohammed Chand, 24, a local from the Majevadi Gate area said she has been traumatised by what happened at the protest and its aftermath. Her father and two brothers who were invested in dispelling other Muslims from protesting and arguing with the Police, were in turn harassed and beaten up by the Police, she alleged.

She also shared with The Wire videos of the aftermath of a police raid at her home. “They picked up my father and brothers, they even hit my mother, they created chaos and then left,” she alleged.

Many locals have shared videos and photos of their damaged homes with The Wire and have alleged that the Police was responsible for it. Photos show broken doors, windows, messed up kitchens and toppled beds. Since the protest, local Muslims have been staying indoors, to avoid being arrested or accused of attending or instigating protests against the police and the municipal corporation.

Damaged homes in Junagadh. Photo: Special arrangement

 Dargah, demolition and documents

After receiving the notice from the municipal corporation, the dargah administration has submitted the ownership documents of the dargah. These documents show that the dargah was registered under the Gujarat State Waqf Board in 2016. The Dargah administration shared documents with The Wire which state that the shrine was initially laid in 1938, and was even registered when the region was a part of the Bombay state until 1960.

Advocates who have dealt with waqf property cases in the past feel that the municipal corporation has been specifically targeting Islamic structures. Even as petitions concerning razing of such structures have been pending in the Gujarat high court since May, the municipal corporation continues to send such notices, the advocates say.

Regarding the selective targeting by the municipal corporation, Congress’s Nusrat Panja said that the municipal corporation shouldn’t have shown such hurry and the whole incident could have been avoided. “People fear for their religious rights and property because of what they have seen in the past,” he said. Panja said he was deeply concerned about the situation.

In the horrifying video where six Muslim men are being flogged outside their own place of worship, a man is seen collapsing in pain at the end. The Wire traced him and spoke to his family about what had happened.

The man, a local of the area, Zakirbhai Makwana, 36, was picked up by the Police on his way home. It wasn’t until early morning prayers that the family realised that he was not home. Makwana, who owns a cement shop near the dargah, was picked up merely because his face was identified in the area’s CCTV. While Makwana was not a part of any protest, he was picked up, flogged and then beaten so brutally that he was unable to stand when his family saw him at the local police station, his brother Noorbhai Makwana has alleged.

He also said that Zakirbhai was a diabetes and blood pressure patient and does not have tolerance for torture which is the reason he collapsed in the said video.

Vasamsetty also said that the local police tried its best to dispel agitating protestors and did manage to quell the protest to a great extent. As many as 180 people have been detained, he added.

He also mentioned that at least five police personnel, including the deputy SP, were injured in the incident. A civilian has also died amidst the chaos and stone pelting, he said.

This, however, is not the first time that public flogging of Muslims has taken place in the state.