Friday prayers at Jamia Faridya Masjid in Delhi’s Begumpur area took slightly longer than usual this week. The imam followed up his customary sermon with a brief prayer for an eight-year-old boy who had died after a scuffle near the mosque the previous day.
As the congregation of around a hundred Muslim men started to disperse, the imam said, “Let the law take its own course. I appeal everyone not to take the law into their hands for Allah will make sure the innocent child gets justice.”
Mohammad Azeem studied in the residential madrassa attached to the mosque, one of 70 Muslim male students aged seven to 14. Also studying at the madrassa were his two older brothers. Around 10 am on Thursday, five of the students got into an argument with four Dalit Hindu boys, aged between 10 and 13, over playing space. In the ensuing fight, Azeem received a blunt injury to his head. He died in hospital soon after.
The police have apprehended the Hindu boys and booked them for murder. They all live in Valmiki Colony, a slum adjacent to the mosque, which, because it stands on the ruins of a medieval mosque, is known as Khandar Masjid.
Azeem’s death has triggered communal tensions in the area as Muslims and Hindus blame each other for the incident. The police have deployed several teams to ensure calm.
Fight for space
There is no playground in the area and children often fight over space to play. Some boys at the madrassa recalled that the fight was preceded by a heated argument, but there is no clarity about what exactly was said. The police said they are investigating whether the boys in either group were provoked by any adult at the spot.
“It was an unfortunate incident,” said Vijay Kumar, deputy commissioner of police, South Delhi. “True facts of the incident have been suitably shared with the media and other stakeholders. However, it has come to our notice that attempts are being made in some quarters to give the incident a communal colour by spreading wrong facts and rumours.”
He did not clarify why they have pressed the charge of murder rather than culpable homicide if Azeem’s death was indeed accidental.
In CCTV footage of the incident that has surfaced online, a group of boys in white clothes and skull caps is seen standing on a plinth of the ruined mosque and, it seems, arguing with another group in the open space outside the madrassa which, according to official records seen by Scroll.in, is registered with the Delhi Waqf Board.
Suddenly, one of the boys jumps off the plinth and the argument soon turns into a fist fight. One of the boys, later identified as Azeem, collapses by a cart. Another boy runs towards the madrassa, apparently raising an alarm. A man rushes out, and returns with Azeem in his arms. The fight is watched by at least four adults, none of whom appears to try and intervene. The police have refused to disclose their identities.
As to what transpired prior to the scenes captured on camera, the police said one of the Hindu boys threw a stone “over” the Muslim boys while they were playing in the empty lot. They asked the Hindu boys to refrain from doing so. But after some time, the Hindu boys threw firecrackers at the students and began abusing them, the police added.
According to the first information report, one of the Muslim students told the police that one of the Hindu boys held Azeem by the throat and pushed him to the ground.
Muslim boy’s death in scuffle reopens old communal fissures in South Delhi’s Begumpur
Mohammad Azeem, 8, died after a fight between a group of Muslim students and Hindu boys over playing space near a mosque.