Amid a stand-off between ASI and worshippers in New Delhi, the government on Saturday made it clear it would not allow prayers in monuments protected by the heritage body except in 12 structures where they were being offered for years.
"We have made it very clear that such prayers in protected monuments will not be allowed," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters when asked to comment on Friday prayers being offered at a mosque in Qutub Minar, a monument protected by Archaeological Survey of India.
He said the Centre had made this clear on Friday, when such attempts were made and law was enforced. "In the Jamali Kamali mosque, a protected monument, that was enforced yesterday," Chidambaram said making an appeal to people not to violate the norm laid down as early as January 1981.
However, he said, there were 12 places of worship --five leading monuments and seven where prayers have been offered on Fridays -- where de facto prayers have been allowed. "In those 12 places de facto status quo are intact. We are for defacto status quo.
But in no other protected monuments prayers will be allowed to be offered," Chidambaram said. A group of people had on Friday tried to forcibly enter ASI-protected mosques in south Delhi to offer Friday prayers but were prevented by police.