Security was tight at the entrance to Gate No. 7 of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, a 17th century mosque built by Mughal kings, and the venue on Tuesday for a gathering of Muslim leaders from across the country to debate the persecution of Muslims.
Police shooed away fruit vendors and cycle rickshaws spilling over from the crowded market nearby, while others stood around the metal detectors at the entrance while their colleagues cased out the giant white shamiana inside with sniffer dogs under the slowly revolving ceiling fans.
A full half hour after the scheduled time, when only the first few rows of seats were occupied, Maulana Naksh Bandi of the Jama Masjid began the proceedings, inviting various leaders to the dais, and declaring in Urdu: “there is no law, there is no justice for us. It is the rule of the jungle.”
Pausing to take a call on his mobile, and to recognise leaders who slowly filed in, some helped by their assistants, the Maulana said that staying silent would only lead to a more terrible future for Muslims in the country.
Bombings by suspected Islamist militants have killed hundreds of people in recent months, and Muslim leaders accuse the police of indiscriminate arrests of young Muslim men who have been labelled as terrorists and paraded before the media.