There is an uneasy calm in Dhar town on eve of Vasant Panchami as people are anxiously waiting to see how things pan out - whether Saraswati pooja and namaz at the disputed Bhojshala pass off peacefully or not.
Now all eyes are on top state leader including the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has so far maintained a stoic silence on the burning issue, to come up with a solution, because all his emissaries have failed to thrash out a solution. Any untoward incident will have its repercussions not only in Malwa-Nimar region, but the entire state. Talks were still going on to thrash out a last minute solution at the time of filing of the report.
The Hindu hardliners, who control the Bhoj Utsav Samiti, that oversee the Bhoj Utsav, have made it clear that they will not offer pooja inside the Bhojshala if namaz is allowed to be held on Friday. The Muslims want to offer namaz as they do every Friday without any hindrance. The administration wants both the pooja and namaz to be held, as mandated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which maintains the structure. The Hindus can offer pooja from sun up to 12 noon after which they will have to clear the venue for the Muslims to offer namaz between 1 pm to 3 pm. The Hindus will again be able to offer pooja from 3.30 pm to sundown.
In 2013 when Vasant Panchami fell on a Friday, the police had to use force to vacate the Bhojshala of Hindus and make way for Muslims.
Interestingly, some Muslim organizations like those in Kanwan Rojad, Kalibawri and Sundrel which are situated around 30-45 km from Dhar, have said the Hindus should be allowed to hold pooja throughout the day and Muslims should hold namaz elsewhere.
The Samiti’s decision to hold pooja outside the Bhojshala is being seen a threat to peace as the office bearers are also saying in the same breath that they “won’t be responsible for the reaction of the Hindu samaj if the pooja is held outside.”
During the course of the past couple of days the Dhar district minister in charge Narottam Mishra and BJP state organizing secretary Arvind Menon had talks with Hindu hardliners and also the local administration there has been no solution to the impasse.
Tight security: Rooftops of all buildings around Bhojshala taken over by security personnel
That the administration too fears that there could be trouble can be gauged from the fact that over 7000 security personnel have been posted in this troubled town to ensure that things do not get out of hand. At every crossing there are gun totting security personnel, and there is heavy deployment of forces along streets leading to the Bhojshala. The rooftops of all the buildings around the Bhojshala have been taken over by security personnel. All roads leading to the city have been ‘unofficially’ sealed by the police, and no one without proper authorization is being allowed inside the town. The police held a flag march in the evening to show their strength and intension. The top officials including the Indore Zone IG ADGP Vipin Maheshwari and divisional commissioner Sanjay Dubey, over a dozen SPs and other officials are camping here. The entire Bhojshala premises has been barricaded to ensure there is no stampede as over a lakh devotees are expected to turn up.
Muslims apprehensive about the entire situation
The Muslims who number around 20,000 in Dhar which boasts of a population of around 1 lakh, are apprehensive about the entire situation. Shahar Qazi Waqar Sadiq talking to Hindustan Times said, “There is fear among the Muslims who are unsure whether they are able to offer Namaz or not.” He expressed disappointment that district minister Narottam Mishra in charge or Arvind Menon did not talk to them when he came to Dhar yesterday. “We are open to talks,” the Qazi said.
Bhoj Utsav Samiti still maintaining its aggressive stand
The Samiti is still maintaining its aggressive stand. Patron Bhoj Utsav Samiti Vijay Singh said, “We are firm on our stand. We want to hold Akhand (non-stop) pooja inside the Bhojshala and if namaz is allowed the pooja would be disrupted, and in that case we will hold the pooja outside, and the State government would have to bear the brunt of the ire of the Hindu community.”
For the common people, these are tense periods which has seen loss of business. Om Merwani, a kirana trader said that markets have been down for the last one month when tension has been building up over the Bhojshala issue. “If there is trouble, the common people like me will suffer. We want peace,” he said.