Ground Report | New Delhi: Growing gap between Hindu and Muslim; Friday afternoon is communal prayer time for Muslims in the north Indian city of Gurugram, who have for years held talks with local authorities to offer prayers in parks and empty plots as they overrun their mosques.
But recent protests by Hindu groups, sometimes with banner-carrying members shouting slogans, disrupted the system – prompting city officials to withdraw permission for some sites used by Muslim worshipers, Reuters reported.
Urban experts said the protests, and orders to remove street vendors selling meat-based snacks in several cities in Gujarat state, reflect a wider fight for shared spaces, as religious minorities are denied equal access.
India’s religious divisions have deepened under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, with civil society groups accusing officials in several states of favoring Hindu groups over minority communities.
‘Space is limited, so it is always a question of how it can be made available for different activities and for different groups,’ said Prerna Mehta, associate director of urban development at think-tank World Resource Institute India.
‘Space is limited, so it is always a question of how it can be made available for different activities and for different groups,’ said Prerna Mehta, associate director of urban development at World Resource Institute India, a think tank.
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‘But there is a certain hierarchy in how public spaces are distributed and accessed in a city: often, poorer classes and minority communities have less space and more limited access,’ she said.
Muslims account for about 14% of India’s population of 1.3 billion, of which Hindus make up about 80%. Across the country, public places for children’s games, festival celebrations, wedding processions, and political rallies are often occupied by informal settlers, street vendors.
Muslim Ekta Manch president Shahzad Khan said, ‘Friday prayers hardly take 30 minutes, and this is the only time – apart from festivals – when we need a bigger space because there aren’t enough mosques to house us.’ (Growing gap between Hindu and Muslim)
“Public places are for everyone, and we have been praying for more than a decade without disturbing anyone. If religious activities are not allowed, the authorities should not allow any Hindu festival,” he said.
A senior Gurugram official said the authorities were not in favor of Hindu groups. Gurugram district deputy commissioner Yash Garg said, “Muslim namaz is still being offered at many places – protests have taken place in only two or three places.”