Right-wing hardliners of Dhar opposed and boycotted a Sadbhavana Rally organised by the administration on Thursday ahead of Basant Panchami.
The hardliners called a half-day bandh to oppose the rally. Shops and other business establishments remained closed till afternoon.
However, collector of Dhar Sriman Shukla said no one had opposed the rally and people from every section of the society took part in it.
The collector, superintendent of police (SP) Rajesh Hingankar along with senior residents and social activists also participated in the rally and appealed for peace and harmony in the city on Basant Panchami.
Former MLA Mohan Singh Bundela, Nisar Ahmed, Shakeel Khan, Ajay Jaiswal and others also took part in the rally.
“We have opposed the Sadbhavana Rally and a majority of Hindus have not taken any part in this rally. This sort of rally is always organised on the occasion of Hindu festival and not during Muslim festivals. The aim of these rallies is to create fear in Hindu community. We have no acrimony against anyone or any community then why has the administration organised this rally,” said Gopal Sharma, convenor of Dharm Jagran Vibhag, an outfit of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
According to sources present at the rally, when the Sadbhavana Rally reached Anand Chaupati, residents of the locality and some other people shouted slogans and even damaged a pulpit (a raised stand) of the rally.
“The administration is creating fear amongst our community,” said Vijay Singh, patron of Bhoj Utsav Samiti.
Bhojshala is a disputed 11th century structure that is claimed by both Muslims and Hindus. While Muslims say it is a mosque, Hindus say it is a temple of Goddess Saraswati.
The structure becomes a flashpoint when Basant Panchami, also referred to as Saraswati Puja, falls on a Friday as it happened in 2003, 2006, 2013.
This year again, the festival is falling on a Friday (February 12).
VHP awaits directions
Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Malwa Prant unit, which comprises 27 districts including Indore and Dhar, is awaiting directives from its top leadership to drum up outside support for performing Basant Panchami Puja in Bhojshala on February 12 (Friday).
Archaeological Survey of India had ordered that Muslims would offer namaz from 1 pm to 3 pm while Hindus would perform Puja from sunrise to 12 noon and then from 3.30 pm to sunset at the Bhojshala.
However, Dhar’s Hindu organisations have threatened to perform uninterrupted Puja from sunrise to sunset.
VHP Malwa Prant vice-president Kanti Patel said no strategy had been made till now regarding outside support. “Whether we would send volunteers from outside the Dhar district for the Puja remains to be decided. The picture will be clear in a day or two,” he told HT.
He said the organisation may decide not to send many VHP volunteers from outside as Dhar district had enough supporters to build up the movement.
VHP’s Malwa Prant unit is likely to hold a meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh office bearers on Friday to decide how the public movement should be shaped to gather support for the Puja. “Wait and watch,” VHP Malwa prant president Prakash Londhe said.