As the coronavirus pandemic continues to gallop in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai, a crowd of about 150 people, in gross violation of the nationwide lockdown and strict social distancing norms, gathered for the funeral of one Babu Batawala(72), a Null bazaar resident who died a natural death on May 7. Batawala was reportedly affiliated to the Raza Academy.
Acting against the offenders, the Dongri branch of Mumbai police filed an offence against 125 people, including Saeed Noori, the founding member of Raza Academy, for performing funeral namaz with brazen disregard to the social distancing guidelines despite repeated insistence from the police.
According to the police, as many as 150 people had gathered for the funeral of Batawala and had refused to heed police instructions urging them to maintain social distancing even as the pandemic rampages across Mumbai. Avinash Dharamadhikari, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Dongri division), said, “Despite our opposition to performing funeral namaz, they ignored our protests and continued with their rites, keeping the coffin on the road and violating social distancing norms.”
It is notable to mention that as per the notification released by the Union Health Ministry, which is overlooking nation’s response to coronavirus outbreak, only 20 people are allowed to partake in the funeral procession and the concomitant last rites. With Mumbai emerging as the most potent coronavirus hotspot in the country, an offence of such magnitude has the potential of further exacerbating the coronavirus crisis in the city. It raises grave questions over Mumbai Police’s inability to stall conspicuous transgressions that may have widespread ramifications.
Nevertheless, the police have booked Saeed Noori, Salim Batawala, Hasabhai, Munnabhai and 120 others under Sections 188 of disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant, 269(negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 of “Malignant Act” for likely spread of disease dangerous to life.
It is pertinent to note that Saeed Noori, the founding member of Raza Academy, had weeks ago created a video on behalf of Mumbai Police wherein he requested members of his community to follow state-mandated social distancing guidelines. Noori is also one of the accused in the Azad Maidan riots.
Azad Maidan Riots and Raza Academy
In August 2011, the leaders of the Raza Academy had organised a so-called protest in Azad Maidan that had devolved into violent riots. The rioters from Raza Academy had vandalised the much-hallowed Amar Jawan memorial situated outside the CST. The riots had caused approximately Rs 2.72 crores worth of damages to various public properties.
The protest was carried out to incite communal violence in Mumbai and the IB report to Maharashtra government hinted at Pakistani involvement in the riots. Bangladeshi passports were retrieved from the areas where riots took place. About 65 people and 40 security personnel were injured in the riots.
FIR against Arnab Goswami
The same Raza Academy has also filed FIR against Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami, accusing him of spreading ‘communal hatred’ while he was reporting the Palghar mob lynching of two sadhus. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal has represented the Raza Academy in Supreme Court when Arnab Goswami had approached the apex court seeking the quashing of FIRs against him.