The Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court ordered on Tuesday to quash rioting and arson charges levelled against pro-Hindu activist Navalkishore Sharma and another Dinesh Devda in connection with tensions at Bhojshala complex in Dhar district in 2003.
The Bhojshala complex, a medieval period monument built in Dhar, was said to a learning centre for many pupils.
However, it is a disputed monument among Hindu and Muslim communities, who offer prayers at the complex alternatively on every Tuesdays and Fridays following governments’ orders.
According to news reports, members of Hindu community, led by Sharma and others, were holding a protest asking the district administration to allow them to offer day-long prayers to goddess Saraswati in Bhojshala complex on ‘Basant Panchami’ falling on a Friday, the day when Muslims are allowed to offer Namaz in the complex.
Sharma, a pro-Hindu activist and the national convener of Bhojshala Muktiyagna Samiti, and ten others were booked by the state for provoking religious sentiments of people to offer prayers in Bhojshala complex in Dhar.
Pleading on behalf of Sharma, advocate Kamal Kumar Tiwari said: “Police booked 11 people for rioting and unlawful assembly in 2003. Later, on government’s direction, the case was dropped against nine accused but Navalkishore Sharma and Dinesh Devda were not exempted without citing any reason.”
Following the arrest of the Hindu rights activist in 2013, there were protests against the government’s action.
It was alleged that the BJP government in the state acted in that manner to appease Muslim community.
There were also rumours that estranged ties between Sharma and right-wing groups also led to his arrest.
The court also observed that despite the law legislative department’s order to withdraw criminal cases against the 11 accused, withdrawal of prosecution for nine accused alone would not be a correct compliance of the government’s order.
While pronouncing the verdict, justice TK Kaushal said: “Prosecution against the present petitioners will amount to non-compliance of order of the state, hence impugned order is set aside and prosecution is quashed against the present petitioners.”