A face-off between right-wing Hindu groups and the administration in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar blew over after Muslims offered Friday namaaz under heavy security cover at a disputed shrine claimed by both communities.
Communal tension had been brewing in the town, 255 km from capital Bhopal, over the past few days with Hindu groups demanded that Muslims be barred from namaaz at the shrine on Friday, celebrated as ‘Basant Panchami’ to appropriate Goddess Saraswati.
Even as Hindu devotees offered puja and performed ‘havan’ outside the shrine, known as Bhojsala , police escorted a group of 25 Muslims through a back gate. After they offered prayers on the roof of the Bhojshala, they were escorted out of the complex, the divisional commissioner Sanjay Dubey and additional director general of police Vipin Maheshwari said in a formal announcement.
The Archeological Survey of India, which maintains the historic structure, allows Hindus to pray at the shrine on Tuesdays while Muslims can do so on Fridays.
The administration had deployed a large number of security personnel as Hindu devotees offered prayers inside the shrine in the morning.
Devotees also queued up for a puja and havan — outside the shrine — conducted by the Bhoj Utsav Samiti along with the Dharm Jagaran Vibhag, an outfit of the RSS.
A seer from Varanasi, Swami Narendranath Saraswati, sat on dharna outside the shrine demanding that only puja be allowed inside the shrine.
The administration said more than 1,500 devotees offered prayers at Bhojshala on Friday.
The Samiti, which is controlled by hardline Hindus had announced they won’t be going inside the Bhojshala if namaaz is allowed. The samiti announced in the afternoon that devotees will enter the shrine since the namaaz was over.
The Samiti held a 35,000-strong rally on Monday and mobilised devotees across the Malwa-Nimar region.
With tension mounting, the rest of the town appeared to shut itself up with all shops and business establishments remaining closed since the morning.