Five Hindus arrested in India over assault of Muslim students offering Ramadan prayers

Mob of about 20-25 people armed with sticks, iron rods and stones told students to move to a mosque

Police in India have arrested five Hindus following an assault on a group of overseas Muslim students who were offering Ramadan prayers in their university hostel rooms. The assault took place in prime minister Narendra Modi’s western home state of Gujarat.

Officials said five of the students, from Afghanistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, were injured in Saturday night’s attack at Gujarat University in state’s largest city of Ahmadabad. Two of them were hospitalised.

Ahmedabad police commissioner GS Malik said a mob of about 20-25 people armed with sticks, iron rods and stones entered the rooms of the Muslim students who were offering a nightly prayer associated with Ramadan, and told them to move to a mosque.

An argument ensued, as there was no mosque in the vicinity. The Muslim students were attacked and some of their property was vandalised.


The incident evoked mild condemnation from Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government which rarely comments on incidents of inter-religious violence, especially one involving Muslims. It came from India’s ministry for foreign affairs spokesman over the weekend, who said “strict action” would be taken against the perpetrators.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has long-pervaded in Ahmedabad. The city registered the highest death toll during sectarian rioting which swept Gujarat in early 2002 – while Mr Modi was its chief minister – when more than 1,200 people, mostly Muslims, died.

In one incident during these riots, which lasted several months, 97 Muslims, including 36 women and 35 children, were killed in the city’s Naroda Patya neighbourhood by a 5,000-strong mob led by the militant Bajrang Dal which has close BJP links.

In late 2022, five Muslim men, accused of a minor infringement in Gujarat’s Kheda district, 40km south of Ahmedabad, were tied to a stake and beaten with bamboo canes in a public square by Hindu policemen, as a crowd cheered them on and filmed the incident. India’s supreme court severely reprimanded the policemen when the case came up for hearing in January.

Domestic and overseas human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised Mr Modi and the BJP for discriminating against Muslims as part of their overall political and social agenda of promoting Hindutva or Hindu hegemony.

Hindus comprise about 80 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people, Muslims constitute about 15 per cent, while Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains make up the remainder.

The New York-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank recently said anti-Muslim sentiments had proliferated under 10 years of BJP rule. This, it said in its report this month, included imposing controversial policies that “explicitly ignored” the fundamental rights of millions of Muslims, restricted their religious freedoms and endeavoured to disenfranchise them.

The council said that under the BJP, Muslims also face bias in securing employment, education, housing and healthcare and that many encounter barriers to achieving political power.

The council said Muslims struggle to secure justice, despite constitutional protection, and analysts have recorded “widespread” impunity for those who attacked them. In recent years, state and national courts and government bodies had at times “overturned convictions or withdrawn cases of Hindus’ involvement in violence against Muslims,” it said.

Additionally, several Indian states with BJP governments had frequently resorted to “extrajudicial” means to punish Muslims, through a practice known as “bulldozer justice”.

This entails arbitrarily and without notice demolishing Muslim homes on the grounds that they lack requisite permits. Despite the supreme court recently ruling these demolitions to be illegal, the practice has continued, the council said.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi