On Monday, 97 years after seven freedom fighters were hanged by the British, Malegaon’s “Shahidon ki Yaadgaar” (martyrs’ memorial) monument witnessed an equally important historic event, according to the organisers, with at least 1 lakh people from the Muslim community congregating at the historical site in response to a call for a law against mob lynching.
Calling it the first rally by the community to protest mob lynching, the organisers said the killing of Tabrez Ansari, 24, from Jharkhand, was the final trigger.
Clerics of Jamiat Ulema, the umbrella NGO which called for the silent protest, urged governments to take note that on a “weak call” the entire textile town had “come out to safeguard the Constitution”. They said, “We do not seek revenge, and don’t believe in violence. We believe in the rule of law.”
The rally had people merging at Malegaon fort before making their way to the martyrs’ monument.
The speeches were fiery, and often emotional, with appeals made to the police administration and state and Central governments to pay heed to the Constitution. The crowd was also asked to spread the message among Muslims that the “victims of lynchings should not show helplessness in chanting Jai Shri Ram; instead, they should die by taking the Sahadat”.
Maulana Umrain Mahfouz Rahmani, secretary, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, told The Indian Express: “The issue (mob lynching) has pierced our hearts; there seems to be no end. Ab bardaash ke bhi bahar hai (now it’s unbearable)…. Muslims are unlike other communities. If any other community was the target, they would have responded by now. Largely, the entire faith responds to the elders and clerics.”
He said, “We are doing our best and holding them together, convincing them, asking them to show restraint, praying with them. But now even we are being tested. In Pehlu Khan’s case, the way the government machinery behaved was heart-breaking —- in most cases there are no FIRs and then our community has to watch photographs and videos of the lynching; then see the accused being garlanded by ministers..”
At the protest venue, Rahmani delivered a fiery speech: “Today’s historical rally is enough to tell the entire country that Muslims will not tolerate oppression for long. We say it clearly: mob lynching is a mobilised murder and is being spread according to a well-devised plan. This is state and non-state terrorism, and it is obligatory on all citizens to stop terrorism. In the pure land of Sita, we can (now) hear footsteps of Ravan, and it is our collective responsibility to stop this.”
In a letter submitted to the Maharashtra administration, the community has urged the President to write to all state governments and Union Territories about lynchings and remind the state heads of their constitutional duties. There is also a demand for Rs 50 lakh compensation to the family of each victim of mob lynching.
Malegaon’s Mufti Mohammed Ismail Qasmi evoked the words of the poet Fayaz as he said, “Aaj agar nishane mein hum hain, toh doosre logon ko khush nahi hona chahiye (if today we are being targetted others should not be happy about that)”
The clerics decided to hold a rally on Friday with the campaign messages reaching Malegaon through social media.