Muslim students attacked by Hindu mob over Ramadan prayers at Gujarat University

Some 25 people armed with sticks assault students, hurl stones and vandalise halls of residence

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 19 March 2024 07:09 GMT
Related video: What is Ramadan?

A Hindu mob armed with stones and iron bars attacked Muslim students at a university in western India on Sunday, with the victims including foreign nationals studying in India on government scholarships.

Police say the mob objected to the students praying on campus during the holy month of Ramadan, with the incident at the University of Gujarat in Ahmedabad involving foreign students from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. At least two were injured in the attack.

“At around 10.30pm in the night, some students were offering namaz (prayers) when around 20-25 people objected to them offering prayers inside the campus and asked them to go to a mosque,” said GS Malik, police commissioner of Ahmedabad city.

“This led to an argument between them with outsiders assaulting them and hurling stones. They also vandalised their rooms,” he said.

The incident has been met with rare condemnation from Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government, which does not typically speak out over individual incidents of inter-religious violence.

Two people, Hitesh Rakhubhai Mewada and Bharat Damodarbhai Patel, have been arrested in the case, Ahmedabad police said (Ahmedabad Police)

The foreign ministry said it was in touch with the state government regarding the violence and that “strict action” would be taken against the perpetrators.

Two people, Hitesh Rakhubhai Mewada and Bharat Damodarbhai Patel, have been arrested in the case, Ahmedabad police said.

“Two foreign students were injured in the clash,” confirmed foreign ministry spokesman Randhir Jaiswal. “One of them has been discharged from hospital after receiving medical attention,” he said.

The foreign students attacked by the mob were pursuing courses as part of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarships, reported the Indian Express. The ICCR scholarships, covering arts, music, languages, and other academic fields, aim to foster cultural exchanges and bolster diplomatic relations by offering foreign students opportunities to study in India.

The attack is the latest in a string of communally-charged incidents that have been reported in the country, and risks serious reputational harm at a time when India is pushing efforts to welcome half a million foreign students by 2027.

Mr Malik said police action was launched at 11.56pm after they first received a call reporting violence, amid allegations of delays in response.

He said a police complaint was filed, in which some 20 to 25 people have been named. Those responsible will be arrested soon, he said.

At least five foreign students sustained injuries in the violence, according to local media reports. Two of them, one from Sri Lanka and the other from Tajikistan, are in hospital receiving treatment for their injuries.

Videos of the late-night brawl on social media showed dozens of students armed with sticks hurling stones and vandalising vehicles inside the hostel amid chants of “jai shree Ram” (hail Lord Ram, a Hindu deity).

Another video shows police arriving on the scene only to allow the mob to walk past them and out into the road.

A student from Afghanistan told NDTV: “They attacked us inside the rooms too. They broke laptops, phones and damaged bikes.” AC units and personal sound systems were also destroyed, the student said.

Navid Siddique, an Afghan student, told the Times of India:An argument ensued and they returned with a larger mob armed with stones, iron pipes and attacked us. They went on a rampage in the hostel assaulting students in their rooms and damaging property and vehicles," he said.

Gujarat University’s vice chancellor Neeraja Arun Gupta said it was a “clash between two groups after which the issue escalated”.

“The police and the government have taken this issue seriously. The investigation is underway. Some videos are viral and the police are trying to investigate the trigger points,” she said in a statement.

Around 300 students study in the university, out of which 75 were living in the A Block where the incident happened, she said.

Monitoring groups say that incidents of hate crimes against minorities in India have increased since 2014, when the Modi government came to power.

Earlier this month, a police officer was suspended after he was seen kicking Muslims who were offering prayers on a street in Delhi, after the video went viral and sparked outrage.

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