Citizenship Law protests: Bengal Imam who lost son to communal clashes calls for peace
Maulana Imdadul Rashidi, the Imam from Asansol in West Bengal who thwarted escalation of riots in the wake of his son’s death during 2018 communal clashes in the Paschim Bardhaman city, has once again appealed for peace, terming the ongoing violence during protests against NRC and new citizenship law “wrong and unacceptable”.
His appeal to the protesters not to cause discomfort to ordinary people or harm public or private properties has been circulating on social media since Sunday morning. “Protests should not cause ordinary people discomfort, harm anyone, any community, caste or religion and damage government or private properties. What a section of people are doing is wrong and unacceptable. I appeal for peace and restraint,” Imam Rashidi told The Indian Express over the phone from Asansol.
The Imam, who lost his 16-year-old son to communal clashes following Ram Navami processions in Asansol in March, 2018, agreed that the proposed NRC and Citizenship Act are putting lakhs of people in trouble. “People are scared. One should protest according to law. Everyone should exercise his or her democratic right to protest, but in a peaceful manner,” Rashidi added.
“Government should help people, not trouble them. In Assam, so much money had been spent and so many people detained. Then the (Central) government is saying they will scrap it and bring a nationwide NRC. Many people do not have proper papers. Where will they go? We have no problem with the new law granting citizenship to all others, but Muslims. But in the long run, it is putting a particular community in a very bad situation. Government should think over this,” said Rashidi, whose appeal in the aftermath of 2018 violence was instrumental in reigning in communal clashes in the region.
On March 30, 2018, hours after his son Sibtulla Rashidi was found dead, becoming the fourth victim of violence triggered by Ram Navami processions across the state, the Maulana presided over a congregation where he appealed for peace.
He had told the crowd he would leave the town if there was retaliation.
“What better person than the Imam appealing for peace. We recorded his video of the appeal and circulated it in social media. We are hopeful that his message will reach out to the section who are engaged in vandalism of railway stations and public buses,” said Md Jim Nawaz, a social activist who has set up an online platform, sohojogita.com and is part of a group holding seminars in districts to tackle NRC rumours.
In 2018, Sibtulla, who appeared for his Class X board exams that year, was reported missing after communal clashes in Rail Par area of Asansol. According to sources, he was picked up by a mob and allegedly beaten to death. His body was recovered later.