In this UP village, police won't let Muslims sacrifice goats on Eid
- Before every Bakr Eid, police confiscate Muslims\' animals in Mushara
- The aim: to prevent the Muslims from sacrificing them
- The animals are returned after the three-day festival is over
- In 2007, sacrifice of animals by the Muslims led to communal riots
- Yogi Adityanath\'s outfit threatens to \'react\' if it\'s done again
- Officials says the Muslims promised not do sacrifice, so they shouldn\'t
Eid-ul-Azha will be celebrated on 25 September, and Muslims across India will sacrifice animals to mark the festival. Except in Mushara village in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Sant Kabir Nagar district.
Here, a contingent of police has come to confiscate all animals, mostly goats, owned by the Muslims, even those not meant for sacrifice. They will be returned after the three-day festival is over.
This has been an annual ritual in Mushara since 2007. That year, it's claimed, the Muslims sacrificed animals in the village for the first time, sparking communal riots.
They have been barred from doing so ever since, by the state no less.
We confiscate the animals as a precaution. What if riots break out again, says district magistrate
"I and four other Muslims were summoned to the local police station recently and detained for the whole day. We were released only after we gave in writing that we will not sacrifice any animal in Mushara," said Mohammed Khalid.
"What the district administration and the police are doing is totally unlawful. The Constitution says the people of this country are free to celebrate their festivals the way they like," Khalid added. "And we don't even sacrifice animals whose killing is banned by law."
"We are not allowed to sacrifice animals even in our homes."
In their defence, the officials said they were just trying to preserve communal harmony.
They claimed the Muslims never performed sacrifices in Mushara; they would instead go to the neighbouring Mehendupaar to do so. In 2007, however, they gathered in an orchard in the village and slaughtered animals.
This "offended" local members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, an extremist Hindu outfit led by BJP's Yogi Adityanath, who represents the adjoining Gorakhpur in Parliament. They reportedly objected to the slaughtering of animals in the open and rioted. Several mosques, madrasas, houses and shops were burned.
The police had to camp in the village for over a month to bring the situation under control.
"After the riots, the Muslims promised they would not sacrifice any animal either in their homes or in a public place during Bakr Eid. We have their statements on record," the district magistrate Saroj Kumar told Catch.
"They are now saying they want to sacrifice animals in their homes and not publicly. But they promised they would not perform sacrifices even in their homes. They should keep their promise."
"We confiscate the animals as a precautionary measure," Kumar said. "What if communal riots break out once again over the sacrifice of animals?"
Ghosi: Are Muslims not citizens of India? Don't they have the right to celebrate their festival?
Every year since 2007, as the Eid nears, the Vahini gets active and starts pressuring the administration and the police to confiscate animals owned by the Muslims. They oblige, without fail.
Tun Tun Sharma, the Vahini's Sant Kabir Nagar president, blamed the current tension on the Muslims "breaking the tradition of never sacrificing animals in Mushara".
"Why did they start a new tradition in 2007?" he asked. "And now they want to start the practice again. We will definitely react."
Muslim leaders though aren't taking the "unconstitutional" restriction lying down. The most vocal is Mohammed Farooq Ghosi, who was suspended by the Samajwadi Party for proposing that Yakub Memon's widow be nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
"Are Muslims not citizens of India? Don't they have the right to celebrate their festival the way they like?" Ghosi asked. "We are saying we'll sacrifice the animals in our homes, not in a public place. Then why is the district administration jittery?"
"What the district administration and the police are doing is against the spirit of the constitution," he told Catch.
Ghosi pointed out that in Mushara, as in other rural places, temporary shops are set up on some days of the week. In some of these shops, "goats, chicken are slaughtered, sold and eaten. Even those who oppose sacrifice by Muslims eat meat or fish in public."
"Then why is slaughtering of animals banned on just three days of the year and that too during a festival?"
Ghosi said the National Commission for Minorities has taken "note of the matter and sought a reply from the Uttar Pradesh government".
He himself plans to lead a protest march from the village to the district centre, some 50 km away, a few days before the Eid.