A communal flare-up in Sarfabad village in Noida — 21 km from Delhi — late on Monday left four Muslims injured after a room they used for prayers was found desecrated. Police said miscreants also pelted stones at the room and nearby houses for almost half an hour before police dispersed the mob.
According to police, Muslims of the village had just finished their prayers when the skirmish began around 10.30 pm. “We have arrested five suspects and a case has been filed under relevant sections of the IPC,” Gautam Buddh Nagar SSP Dr Preetinder Singh said. He said additional forces from Hapur, Bulandshahr and Ghaziabad were deployed in the area in addition to Noida police to prevent any escalation in tension.
“We are investigating the allegations of desecration. If found true, relevant sections will be added in the chargesheet for hurting religious sentiments. There was some disagreement between the two parties regarding the construction and expansion of that prayer room, and we are looking into the matter,” Singh said.
Trouble began three years ago after residents of the village opposed the building of a larger prayer room for Muslims. “They say we should confine our prayers to our houses only. They would not let us expand the room into a proper prayer house. For the past three years this dispute has been raging and we have already had two incidents over this,” a resident said.
According to Uday Ram, the village pradhan, the dispute revolves around allowing Muslims from other villages into Sarfabad for prayers. “In the past, we have had Muslims from outside the village conducting prayers and meetings in our village. That is not acceptable to many people which is why they are opposed to the construction of that prayer house,” he said.
A police officer said for three years, a number of meetings between the two communities have taken place on the issue but to little avail. “Technically, a mosque or even a madrassa cannot be built on that land since it belongs to the government and the local residents do not have the necessary permission. But they have no intention of building a mosque. They just want a bigger prayer house,” the officer said.