Communal tension is building at the 11th century Archaeological Survey of India-protected Bhojshala in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh as Basant Panchami falls on a Friday. The monument, with a Saraswati temple and a mosque last saw such clashes in 2006.
Dhar has been on tenterhooks with two Hindu factions declaring they would not vacate the premises on February 15. The ASI has, however, issued orders to allow Hindus and Muslims at separate times on Thursday and Friday.In a year when the BJP-led MP government is facing assembly election, the administration is not taking any chance and has deployed 5,000 policemen, including four companies of Rapid Action Force, to control more than 20,000 people expected to descend at Dhar for the festival.
While the ASI order came as a relief to the administration and people of the city, the Bhoj Utsav Samiti - spearheading the no-namaz campaign - is fuming.
"We will perform puja for the whole day on February 15 come what may. Basant Panchami is on February 15 and not on February 14. It is up to the administration to decide where they are going to ask Muslims to perform namaz. We are ready to face any situation," said Ashok Jain, the president of the Samiti.
Muslim leaders felt that ASI had just maintained status quo on the issue.
"But for us, the larger question is of maintaining peace and harmony," said Nissar Ahmed, advocate and president of Urs Committee, Dhar.
City's chief qazi Waqar Siddiqui refused to comment on the issue.
A visibly-relieved Dhar collector CB Singh said he was hopeful that majority of people would perform the puja on Thursday itself.
"We will talk to both the sides to ensure that the festival passes off peacefully," he said.
The ASI order was backed by local priests who issued a release saying Basant Panchami begins on Thursday morning and ends on Friday afternoon.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, thousands of sloganeering devotees thronged Bhojshala to perform Tuesday aarti.