Hindu nationalists attack foreign students for offering Ramazan prayers in India

Two detained after clashes at Gujarat University as foreign students prayed on campus

News Desk March 18, 2024
Demonstrators during a protest against hate speech against Muslims by Hindu leaders, in New Delhi, India, December 27, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

An investigation has been initiated by authorities in western India following reports of an attack allegedly carried out by far-right Hindu nationalists against foreign university students observing prayers during the holy month of Ramazan, CNN reported.

This incident comes amidst simmering religious tensions preceding a crucial general election. According to Ahmedabad police, clashes erupted at Gujarat University on Saturday when students from various countries, including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan, commenced prayers on campus grounds. Two people were detained following clashes.

Commissioner GS Malik stated that a group of 20-25 individuals confronted the students, insisting they should pray in a mosque instead. This confrontation escalated into stone-pelting and vandalism of the students' accommodations. The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed at least two foreign students were injured.

In response, the state government vowed strict action against the perpetrators, as stated by spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal on social media. This incident adds to a series of communal clashes in India, reflecting the growing religious polarisation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government.

Eyewitnesses recounted how the students were interrupted during prayers by a group chanting Hindu slogans, leading to physical altercations and further vandalism. Videos circulating online depict the violent episode, with individuals chanting "Jai Shree Ram", a Hindu rallying cry against Muslims.

Read also: ‘Islamophobia growing under Hindutva ideology’

An Afghan student reported that initially, three people disrupted their prayers, but the situation escalated when a larger group arrived, pelting stones and damaging property. Despite having permission to pray on campus, the students expressed fear for their safety and urged the university to relocate them to a secure location.

The university's vice chancellor confirmed the clashes and assured an ongoing investigation, with police scrutinising video evidence to determine the cause of the confrontation.

Concerns over growing intolerance and inter-religious tensions in India have been raised by analysts, particularly as Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pursue populist yet divisive policies ahead of the upcoming national election.

Recent incidents in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, including the placement of saffron flags on a Christian church, underscore the deepening religious divide.

The violence in Gujarat drew condemnation from prominent figures like Muslim lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, who criticised Modi's government for what he termed "mass radicalisation" and selective outrage against peaceful religious practices.


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