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All reformists wanted to do was pray namaz

Orthodox attack reformist Bohras inside masjid


Udaipur: On August 6, 2012 (19th of Ramazan, 1433H) a small group of reformist Dawoodi Bohras (Bohra Youth) men and women were violently attacked by orthodox Bohras (Shabab) inside the Moyyiadpura masjid in Udaipur. The following day nine members of the Shabab group were arrested among them was Sheikh Shabbir Mustafa, a prominent local businessman and a leader of the Shabab group.

At the end of the day on August 7, all nine were still in custody. The city magistrate refused to release them on bail. It seems attempt-to-murder is one of the charges laid against the accused. It is a serious charge and only high court can rule on it. It is possible that they might spend they might spend next few days behind bars.

Shabbir Mustafa, a prominent businessman and Shabab leader being arrested.

Shabbir Mustafa, a prominent businessman and Shabab leader being arrested.

In the meantime, Shabab leaders tried desperately to mobilise supporters to put pressure on the administration to grant bail to the accused. Despite repeated appeals – through text messaging - during the better part of the morning no more than 200 Shabab supporters turned up at the Collectorate. In the last-ditch desperate messaging, Shabab supporters were even told that "if you don't come our case can become weak". Two or three accused are reportedly absconding.

At the centre of this latest clash between these two Bohra groups is the control and ownership of community properties. A majority of these are legally owned and controlled by reformists, which the orthodox are trying wrest from them, and from time to time resort to violence to get their way. For some years now, the Moyyiadpura Masjid which is in the heart of Bohra mohalla is shared - through court ruling - by both groups. In fact, reformists have a very small allotted space at the back of the masjid - which adds up to 19 spaces for men and around 40 for women. So at any given time no more than 60 reformists can pray at Moyyiadpura masjid. The rest of the masjid which can accommodate hundreds is used by the orthodox.

Shabab supporters gather outside the Collectorate.

Shabab supporters gather outside the Collectorate.

On August 6, 2012 at Zuhr time the masjid was full of Shabab people, and Sayedna Saheb’s grandson Taha Bhaisaheb was presiding over the majlis of Maula Ali ibn Talib’s shahdat (martyrdom). The majlis was actually a bayan of Taha Bhaisaheb's father Aaliqadr Molai Muffadal Bhaisaheb (the designated 53rd Dai) being telecast via satellite. Zuhr time was 12:45 pm, but at that time the majlis was still going on, the masjid doors were closed with the police keeping the vigil (according to court orders only police open and close the masjid at scheduled times). When it was namaz time reformists went to the masjid but the police wouldn’t let them in as the majlis was still in progress. The police asked reformists to wait till 1:30 pm, so reformists waited.

It should be noted that this was a Monday afternoon so there were no more than 10 men and 20 women who waiting to enter the masjid. When it was 1:30 reformists again pleaded that doors be opened, they requested to the police to tell the Shabab people to vacate their (Youth’s) allotted space which they were occupying and let them pray, and they wouldn’t mind even if their (Shabab’s) majlis was going on. The police somehow managed to do that, reformist entered and started praying, even as the Shabab group was doing matam (beating chest). In fact they were doing matam for past half an hour, according to Shabbir Nasir, a well known reformist activist, who was negotiating with the police all this while and was later severely beaten up in the attack.

Hatim Rocketwala sustained serious head injuries.

Hatim Rocketwala sustained serious head injuries.

Nasir said that while they were praying, someone suddenly came up to them and started yelling “why are you abusing our Maula.” This is utter nonsense, says Nasir. “We were just praying, keeping to our business. Besides we were totally outnumbered, we were not stupid to invite trouble on ourselves like this.” But the man continued with accusations, other men all flush and pumped up with matam gathered around and started beating reformists – men and women. Yes, they attacked the women also, among them was Sakina Dalal, a frail 70+ old woman.

Interestingly all this happened in the presence of Taha Bhaisaheb and the local Amil. “These two janabs were not more than 8 to 9 feet from where we were”, Nasir says. And they were silent witness to this horrific scene of violence, when innocent, unarmed men and women who were just praying namaz were being violently attacked. “These people were apparently armed”, says Nasir, “because you can’t get this kind of injuries with bare hands. Hatim Rocketwala (see pic) received severe injuries on his head and was rushed to hospital. Nasir’s head and nose were bleeding. He and other victims were also rushed to hospital and later released after medical examination. “It is a miracle that we came out of it alive,” he says.

After the attack: police stand outside the Moyyiadpura masjid.

After the attack: police stand outside the Moyyiadpura masjid.

As is well known, for Shabab people namaz and namaz time is not important. Majlis by the Sayedna or Muffadal BS or even local amil takes precedence over namaz. And they make no bones about it, “they openly say bayans of our Maula is more important than namaz,” Nasir said. For them namaz can wait. A couple of Muslim policemen who were outside the masjid also wondered what kind Muslim are these who were doing majlis at namaz time.

Photo courtesy: UdaipurTimes.com