Even as the masses remain locked in their homes bravely fighting the deadly coronavirus disease, a group of people has been found indulging in fomenting communal tension in Bihar even at this critical time. The group has been asking Hindu villagers to buy foodstuffs from only those shops which have saffron flags unfurling atop or from those which belong to the community. Incidentally, the incident has been reported from Nalanda which is the home district of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The district has a sizeable population of the Muslim community and has been infamous for communal tensions.

“We have registered a case against two named persons and five unnamed persons for trying to foment communal flare-ups. We are conducting raids to nab them but all are absconding,” Laheri police station in-charge Birendra Kumar told The Statesman over the phone today. It is Laheri Police Station areas in Nalanda district from where this incident was reported.

The case has been registered on the complaint of the local block development officer (BDO), Biharsharif, Rajiv Ranjan. In his complaint, the BDO said acting on information given by the local sub-divisional officer (SDO), he reached the spot and found the Bajrang Dal activists putting up saffron flags atop the shops owned by the Hindus and also advising the Hindu villagers to buy essential items only from the shops sporting saffron flags.

“I found Kundan Kumar, Dheeraj Kumar and five others fitting saffron flags on the shops owned by the Hindus and suggesting a particular community to buy essential commodities, fruits, vegetables and other necessary items only from the shops having saffron flags. There is a huge possibility of communal tension spreading in the areas due to such acts,” the BDO said in his complaint petition. He added that the Bajrang Dal activists even tweeted some photographs showing them putting saffron flags atop such shops and alerting the villagers about the future buying from these shops only.

The bizarre move comes apparently in the wake of some videos going viral on social media showing Muslim vendors allegedly applying saliva on fruits and vegetables. Although it is not known about the authenticity of such videos, they have indeed created distrust between the two communities. One such incident was recently reported from Sabziibagh locality of Patna where some Muslim youths were found allegedly spitting on vegetables and fruits after which they were caught by the police.

Muslim villagers from Nalanda district are alarmed at such campaigns directed against them and have gone all out to win the hearts of the Hindu community and remove any “confusions” gripping their minds. In a significant move in this direction, a century-old mosque in Nalanda was, for the first time, opened for Hindus in February this year. About 150 Hindus visited the mosque and stayed there for the whole day, watching closely how the Muslims offer prayers and what they do inside the mosque.

“There has been a lot of misconception about Islam and mosque. The people from other faiths want to know what we do inside, what we chant as prayers and why we frequent there. So we decided to open the door of our mosque for non-Muslims to make them familiar with our faith,” Bhainsasur Badi Masjid committee president Ishtiyaq Ahmed told this scribe. He said that a mosque is the “abode” of Allah and everyone is welcome there. However, Ahmed is extremely worried over the recent developments in the country that are creating a rift between the two communities who have lived together for centuries, sharing happiness and grief together.