A minister from the Indian National Congress (INC) in Maharashtra, Aslam Sheikh, has been exerting pressure on the state government to get an exemption from lockdown for Muslims so that they can observe Bakrid as usual. He has raised the issue with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar as well. This flies in the face of its apathy towards the Hindu community on which the state government has imposed restrictions before the Ganeshotsav. Even though Ganesh Chaturthi has been unthinkable without the crowds in the streets of Mumbai since the time of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and while the festival is associated with the identity of the state, neither consideration had restrained the Uddhav Thackeray government that ordered that the puja could be conducted only from home and the next year the devotees could think of immersion of the murtis (consecrated idols).
But an exception for Muslims is hardly a novelty under the current dispensation of Maharashtra. Recently, Eid ul Fitr witnessed the state government lift the lockdown for the residents of a Muslim-dominated Mumbra. Shops remained open even after the outbreak of epidemic and people appeared on the streets in this locality on the day of Eid ul Fitr.
For Eid ul Adha (aka Eid ul Zoha aka Bakrid), Muslim activists and politicians have gone a step further to demand discounts for goats for sacrifice. Sheikh has written a letter to Chief Minister Thackeray, demanding that Muslims be permitted to celebrate the occasion with certain conditions. The expected date for Eid ul Adha in India is 31 July or 1 August.
In the guidelines issued for Ganeshotsav, the Maharashtra coalition government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and INC had imposed restrictions like seeking permission for the authority for the puja, capping the height of the murti at 4 feet for open celebrations and 2 feet for observing rituals at home.
For immersion, the INC and NCP-backed Thackeray government had asked the devotees to make do with metal Ganesh idols which they could dispose of the next year in February. It had ordered people who brought clay idols to immerse Ganesha in ponds near their houses.
Another politician from the Islamic community thinks those restrictions for Ganeshotsav were quite acceptable. INC politician and former minister Asif Naseem Khan has appealed to Chief Minister Thackeray, saying, “As the government had given permission to celebrate Ganeshotsav, we appeal that the Muslim community be allowed to celebrate Eid ul Adha with appropriate restrictions.”
The INC leader said that the chief minister should make this decision on a priority basis so that the Muslim community could celebrate Eid with fanfare.
As such, throughout the strict implementation of the nationwide lockdown, the community of Sheikh and Khan broke norms of social distancing with immunity. While an effort was made by the self-styled secular media to project the scourge as an aberration by the Tablighi Jamaat, scores of Muslims not affiliated to the jamaat were found praying in mosques at will, shopping in Delhi and Mumbai, assaulting doctors in Moradabad of Uttar Pradesh and Aurangabad of Bihar, thrashing policemen in Bhopal and Indore of Madhya Pradesh, making vulgar gestures at nurses in quarantine centres in Delhi-NCR, etc.