Glass shards, stones, bricks and liquor bottles are spread all across the compound. The door at the entrance of the main building is missing. The wreckage of burned fans, windows, doors and furniture is lying on the floor, blackened with soot. In one corner, water is dripping from the broken ceiling.
This was the scene when Al Jazeera earlier this month visited Madrassa Azizia, a prominent Muslim school in Bihar Sharif town of Nalanda district in eastern India’s Bihar state.
The school in the town’s Murarpur neighbourhood, established over a century ago, was attacked by a mob on March 31 during Ram Navami, a Hindu festival that, according to rights groups, saw a large number of processions pass through mainly Muslim neighbourhoods across India, with people carrying weapons, chanting provocative slogans and even attacking shops, homes and religious structures.
Residents said a mob of about 1,000 men – armed with sticks and petrol bombs – barged into the school and set it on fire, destroying its library that housed nearly 5,000 books, including precious manuscripts and historical documents.
Mohan Bahadur, the school’s security guard, told Al Jazeera the mob was shouting “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), a religious slogan that has become a rallying cry for Hindu right-wing groups against its minorities, mainly Muslims and Christians.
Bahadur said when he saw the procession advance towards the school, he tried to lock its gates. “But the crowd pelted stones and broke the gate,” he said.
“A man from the crowd pushed and slapped me, and yelled at me, ‘You Nepali bastard, we will kill you,’” Bahadur said, adding that he got scared and ran away from the site.
Mohammad Shakir Qasmi, the principal of the school, told Al Jazeera he was at his home to break his Ramadan fast when the violence erupted.
“When I got a call from the security guard, I rushed out and reached the main road where I saw some boys were pelting stones and a marriage hall was on fire,” he said.
Qasmi said when he visited the school the next morning, he was shocked by what he saw.
“They [rioters] had tried to destroy everything. I cried when I saw that thousands of books had turned to ash. I can’t believe they did this and I had never thought this could ever happen here,” he told Al Jazeera. (AlJazeera)