Right at Delhi’s doorstep, around 50 km from the national capital, is Dankaur, a village in Greater Noida, where a fierce battle for the Muslim mind is going on, with radical elements spreading their extreme message of hate and conservatism among a moderate population, which, however, is fighting back with all its might. The educational and social conditions of this village, populated primarily by followers of the moderate Barelvi sect, are under attack from radical ideologues belonging to the Deoband sect. The Hindus as well as the Barelvi Muslims living in Dankaur confirmed to The Sunday Guardian that the threat posed by these extreme elements is serious, and despite their steady effort to thwart their influence, the latter have been able to divide the Muslims on ideological lines. A glimpse of their vile agenda was on display on 26 January when these elements opposed the flag hoisting ceremony at the Saiyyad Bhureshah Muslim Girls’ School, a madrasa they have rendered defunct because of its emphasis on English education. The situation is volatile, and there are fears that the radical elements finding a base here will prove to be a security threat.

“This must be the only school in India where Republic Day celebrations were held without any children in attendance, thanks to the Deobandi elements. They closed down the school by using pressure tactics and by threatening the physical safety of the teachers and pupils. Our only fault was that we were imparting modern education, and in addition to teaching Arabic and Urdu, we were also teaching Hindi and English,” said Kadir Khan Jaiswal, secretary of the Saiyyad Bhureshah Trust, which runs the school.

The locals of Dankaur said that the village had been the epitome of peaceful co-existence between the Hindus and Muslims. But the radical elements from the Deoband sect, who arrived here some seven-eight years ago, are trying to destabilise things. These elements have been trying to force their fascist doctrine onto the shrine worshipping Barelvis. They have divided the Muslims on ideological grounds and, as a result, the number of people visiting the darghas has diminished sharply.

“The Barelvis want communal harmony. For decades, Hindus and Muslims have lived here in peace. But the Deobandis are campaigning against schools and madrasas that impart modern education. They want only theology to be taught here,” Sonu Verma, a jewellery shop owner, told this newspaper. He said the chief of these radical ideologues is one Habib Ahmad, a doctor by profession. Habib, Sonu alleged, is an imposter doctor, who arrived from the nearby Rabupura village eight-nine years ago and initiated a smear campaign against the moderate thinking of the Barelvis.

Sonu said that Habib’s men started selling meat in the area, even though meat shops are prohibited there owing to the place’s proximity to the revered Dronacharya temple. “They started selling meat at a mere 100 metre distance from the temple. They want Hindus and the Muslims to quarrel,” said Abid, a local. Anil Goyal, a confectionery shop owner, claimed that the extreme elements are creating disturbances in the area. “They are indulging in buffalo slaughter. Some five-six months ago, there was a clash between the two communities over this,” said another local, requesting anonymity.

Nizamuudin, a cloth merchant, shed light on how these extreme elements closed down the madrasa. “There were two lady teachers in the Saiyyad Bhureshah Muslim Girls’ School. The radicalised men started throwing stones, pebbles and even rotten tomatoes on them, while they were coming out of the school. They said they will never allow English and Hindi to be taught to the children, as this diverts them from theological scholarship. They broke the school’s fans and furniture. They used coercion on the children coming here to study,”

Nizamuddin told this newspaper. He said that these elements once fitted live electric cable on the doors of the madrasa, so that the children would get electrocuted. “By God’s grace, no accident took place. But the parents got scared and stopped sending their wards to the school,” Nizamuddin recalled.

“Dr Habib is anti-education and anti-modernisation,” alleged Jaiswal. “We support the Centre’s agenda to modernise madrasas. It is only by way of modern education that the youths can have employment opportunities. But Habib is acting on an altogether radical agenda. These men are acting like the custodians of Islam.”

Jaiswal said a comprehensive strategy is at work to convert the ideological moorings of the people. He alleged that the Deobandis are installing their pet maulvis at the neighbouring mosques, which, by way of their sustained hate campaign, are turning into citadels of radical thought. “They have brought here a team of rabid maulvis, who are running a racket. They are brainwashing people to adopt their radical ideology. It’s like a cancer, which is slowly spreading across Dankaur,” Jaiswal told The Sunday Guardian. “In the name of propagating din (religious teachings), they are turning the children into agents of radicalism. They want us to go back to the dark ages,” Jaiswal alleged.

Pankaj Kaushik, a close aide of BJP MP from Gautam Buddha Nagar, Mahesh Sharma, a Union minister, expressed his concern at the rapidity with which the extremist elements are spreading their tentacles in Dankaur. “They are sowing the seeds of Talibani education. Communal harmony is being uprooted from this place. The immediate intervention of the state government is warranted. Else, we cannot rule out a major untoward incident in the near future,” Kaushik told this newspaper.

When these correspondents visited the Saiyyad Bhureshah Muslim Girls’ School, they found the premises in utter shambles. The doors were locked and it seemed the place had turned into a den of anti-social elements. Before long, the Deobandi elements and the local Barelvis got into an altercation as the two correspondents enquired about what transpired on 26 January. The Deobandi group would not let the locals narrate how they had objected to the flag hoisting on Republic Day.

Habib, in fact, denied all such allegations. He said that Jaiswal was to blame for the sorry condition of the school. “He (Jaiswal) is responsible for the dilapidated condition of the school. His inaction is the reason why no teacher or student can be found on its premises. He is trying to encroach illegally on the land on which the school has been built,” Habib alleged. His interpretation was, however, negated by most locals.

A network of land mafia is also suspected to be behind the developments. The people of Dankaur allege that the Deobandis are pawns in the hands of the land mafia who are eyeing the properties of the Wakf Board. The Saiyyad Bhureshah Trust is authorised by the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board to safeguard the religious properties of the minorities. It is alleged that the land mafia is targeting these properties. Their agenda is to establish a new management or trust — with their pet Deobandis heading it — that would illegally transfer or sell the religious properties to them at throwaway prices. In some cases, they have succeeded in usurping the lands that were in the custody of the Saiyyad Bhureshah Trust, Jaiswal alleged. The trust has properties running into crores, with 28 shops and a graveyard and the land on which the girls’ school has been built.

“Years ago, Abdul Aziz (now dead), Jaffaruddin (now dead) and Nawab Ali got their names entered as the owner of more than one beegha land, which was under the trust. This was a blatant fraud, but we came to know about it much later,” Jaiswal said, who was appointed the permanent secretary of the trust in 2009. He petitioned against this “encroachment” to the SDM Court, Sadar tehsil, Gautam Buddha Nagar in 2011.

As he struggled with the legal battle, the mafia started occupying the shops belonging to the trust with the help of the Deobandi elements. They dragged out people who had rented the shops and installed their own men as lessees, who stopped paying the rents. The locals alleged that few of these new tenants started claiming themselves to be the owners of the shops they had rented. They illegally transferred them to the mafia in exchange for money.

“The tenants are claiming in broad daylight that they are the owners. How can they own properties that belong to the trust? The administration is sleeping,” said a local who did not wish to be named.

But thanks to political machinations, the trust lost the case. Jaiswal alleged that SDM Bachchu Singh gave an adverse judgement as their documentary evidence against the encroachers was deliberately misplaced. “Our documentary evidence and letters containing eyewitness accounts was lost in the tehsil. This was a conspiracy. We lost the case because of this,” Jaiswal said, as a big group of locals affirmed his statement vociferously.

Jaiswal added that soon after Durga Shakti Nagpal assumed office as SDM, things began to improve. “She took stern action when our second patravali, or letters, were misplaced in the tehsil. She got it retrieved, and just as we were expecting an honest report on the status of the encroached properties, she got suspended,” he recalled.

Bachcha Singh, Jaiswal alleged, favoured the encroachers after being reappointed SDM. He issued instructions that they can sell the graveyard, which had been under the trust for long, Jaiswal said. In the CGM court of Gautam Buddha Nagar, they were again delivered an unfavourable verdict. But far from losing hope, they appealed to the Allahabad High Court on 3 August 2015. Currently, their petition is under consideration in the HC.

The administration and the mafia have a nexus, Jaiswal and the locals alleged. The petition that the names of Aziz, Jaffaruddin and Nawab Ali be removed as owners of these properties is under consideration of the commissioner. But, Jaiswal and the locals suspect they would not get a fair hearing. “We want that this case be transferred to some other district,” Jaiswal appealed. The locals supported his plea.
Until the court comes up with a verdict, the keys of the madrasa remain in Habib’s custody. “We had rented out the premises to Mahanagar Vikas Seva Samiti, and got a minority status too. We even deposited the security bonds with the Syndicate Bank for the school. How come then the keys are with Habib?” asked Jaiswal.

When asked, J.S. Kalra, Inspector, Gautam Buddha Nagar police station in Dankaur, said: “I am new here, I joined on 31 December 2015. I do not have a good idea about what goes around here. There have not been any untoward incidents of late.”

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