Offering namaz at public places will not be tolerated: Haryana CM Khattar - Hindustan Times
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Offering namaz at public places will not be tolerated: Haryana CM Khattar

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dec 11, 2021 12:19 AM IST

“Such programmes (namaz) should not be held in the open. This practice of offering namaz at public spaces will not be tolerated as it is leading to controversies and confrontations,” said Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Gurugram.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday said offering namaz in public places cannot be tolerated, even as the district administration withdrew permission for Friday prayers at 20 designated sites amid protests by members of Hindu outfits who parked vehicles and organised programmes to prevent Muslims from offering entering.

Public namaz offerings were disrupted at several places in Gurugram on Friday. (Vipin Kumar /HT PHOTO)
Public namaz offerings were disrupted at several places in Gurugram on Friday. (Vipin Kumar /HT PHOTO)

“Such programmes (namaz) should not be held in the open. This practice of offering namaz at public spaces will not be tolerated as it is leading to controversies and confrontations. We have given directions to the police and administration to resolve the issue amicably. We will not allow any confrontation, and try to resolve it,” the chief minister said while speaking to the media on the sidelines of a meeting at PWD Rest House in the city.

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To be sure, this is not the first time that Khattar has spoken on the issue. In 2018, the Haryana chief minister said that namaz should be offered at mosques, Idgah or other designated places rather than public spaces.

“New sites will be decided after fresh discussions with both the parties and the district administration will release the list accordingly,” the CM said, adding that Muslims should be allowed to perform namaz on Waqf board properties.

Since Friday morning, members of right-wing outfits started reaching the designated namaz sites in Sector 37, Atlas Chowk, Sector 44, Sirhaul Park, Sector 22 and Genpact Park.

The locals and right-wing members occupied the parks and grounds in Sector 37, Atlas Chowk, Sector 44, Sirhaul Park, Sector 22 and Genpact Park before Muslims could reach and started shouting religious slogans, police confirmed. Muslims alleged that despite police presence they were not allowed to perform namaz at any site.

At Sector 37, some local residents and members of Hindu outfits parked trucks and cars to occupy the ground located opposite the police station. Around noon, at least 300 people gathered at the spot to participate in a programme to pay homage to the chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat who died in a helicopter crash. General Rawat was cremated with full military honours in Delhi on Friday.

At the Sector 44 park, more than 20 members of Hindu groups gathered to stop Muslims from offering prayers. More than 100 Muslims who work in the area were turned away by police personnel amid protest.

Several protesters kept shuttling between all the six sites and did not allow Muslims to perform the Friday prayers.

Praveen Yadav, a member of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, who has been leading the protest against Friday namaz in Sirhaul, said they assigned duties to each member on Thursday night. “We had shared a chart within our groups, and held a meeting with all the members on Thursday to discuss the plan of action. Our aim was to ensure that Muslims did not use our public spaces to offer namaz, and to confront them if they insisted,” he said.

Avaneesh Raghav alias Rinku, a resident of Khandsa, said the open space belonged to the village, and they use it for parking trucks. “We will not allow namaz in our area, and if anybody tries to do it forcefully they will have to face dire consequences. Muslims are being adamant so are we,” he said.

“We were well prepared and we had decided that if Muslims forcefully try to offer namaz, we will retaliate,” said Yadav when asked about the wooden sticks kept at the site.

The protest against Friday namaz in open public spaces has been taking place in Gurugram since 2018. The same year, the administration designated 37 sites for Muslims to perform the Friday prayers. However, in November this year, the number of sites was cut down to 20 after members of the right-wing outfits continued to protest and disrupt prayers. The Muslims, however, have maintained that they were forced to use public spaces since there were not enough mosques in the city.

Asif Khan, who works with an export house in Sector 37, said he had been offering namaz at Sector 37 for the last two years, but never faced any issue. “Now, things are becoming ugly, and the ongoing protest is frustrating and humiliating,” he said.

Fiza Khan, who reach the site at Sector 44 to perform namaz, said, We begged officials and the Hindu groups to allow us to perform namaz, but they did not budge.”

Aarish Khan, who works with online insurance company in Sector 44, said that they were offering namaz at this site since 2008. “It is shameful what our Hindu brothers are doing to us. We support them in their religious activities and help them in many ways during their Kawar Yatra and other religious activities but they are not even ready to allow us to use an open space for 15 minutes once a week. This is the first time in so many years that we were not allowed to offer Juma namaz here,” he said.

Yash Garg, deputy commissioner, Gurugram, said they have handled the situation “wisely” so far, and will ensure that concerns of all stakeholders will be taken into consideration so that the issue is resolved. Regarding the withdrawal of permission for namaz at the current sites, Garg said, “A new list (of places) will be made where Muslims will be allowed to offer namaz, but not in public places. No untoward incident has been allowed to happen till date, and in future too nobody will be allowed to disturb law and order in the city,” he said.

Sanjeev Balhara, assistant commissioner of police, said more than 500 policemen were deployed at different sites on Friday to maintain order. “The Hindu groups were protesting at the sites which were not listed under the new list of administration, and they demanded the Muslims to show written permission to offer namaz. We ensured that the situation was controlled and no untoward incident was reported from any site. Muslims did not offer namaz at several sites, but the decision was taken by their Imams and they left the place after discussing the issue with locals and members of Hindu outfits,” he said.

Altaf Ahmad, spokesperson for the Gurgaon Muslim Council, said Muslims in the city were forced to offer Juma (Friday) namaz in the open as the state authorities has not allocated land to them to build mosques. “All our applications get rejected and earnest money refunded, including our latest application submitted in October, 2021. The waqf board and administration have not been able to get waqf properties vacated from encroachers. Now the chief minister has said that the 37 sites approve by the administration will be decided anew. We request him to instruct HSVP to allocate us land in several sectors to build multi-storey mosques, and that shall be the end of the Juma namaz row,” he said.

Khurshid Rajaka of Muslim Rashtriya Manch, said the Imam Council of Gurgaon and the district administration has identified around six public places, along with 12 properties of the waqf board for Friday prayers. To this, Braham Prakash, state vice president of Sanyukt Hindu Sangarsh Samiti, said the issue related to namaz in open spaces has been resolved. “We will stop our movement,” said Prakash.

Other Muslim groups have maintained that the Muslim Rashtriya Manch has been colluding with the Hindu right-wing groups, and that they did not represent the Muslims in Gurugram.

Amidst the protest and disruption, Hindu and Muslim groups who have been in talks with the district administration on the namaz issue, jointly organized an event to pay homage to General Rawat. Mufti Shamoon Qasim, member of project approval board of union ministry of minority affairs said namaz can be offered only at a private place or on common land but only after taking consent of the locals.

Meanwhile, BJP workers in Gururgam celebrated the statement issued by CM Khattar regarding namaz in public places. “This was a bold statement by the CM following which all party workers celebrated on Friday and tweeted about it. From next Friday, there will be no protest as namaz in open will not take place at any sites,” said Arun Yadav, head of the BJP’s state IT cell.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Leena Dhankhar has worked with Hindustan Times for five years. She has covered crime, traffic and excise. She now reports on civic issues and grievances of residents.

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