Cops ensure peace during Friday namaz in Gurugram amid conflict on prayers - Hindustan Times

Cops ensure peace during Friday namaz in Gurugram amid conflict on prayers

By, Hindustan Times, Gurugram
Dec 25, 2021 03:01 AM IST

A group of people did try to disrupt the namaz congregation near Shankar Chowk, Udyog Vihar, and Tau Devi Lal Park in Sector 22, but were turned away by police

Namaz was offered peacefully for the first time in the past several months despite attempts by vigilantes to disrupt prayers at some places in Gurugram, which has been at the centre of a bitter conflict over Friday prayers offered in the open.

Muslims offer Namaz in a park, in Gurugram on Friday. (Vipin Kumar/HTPhoto)
Muslims offer Namaz in a park, in Gurugram on Friday. (Vipin Kumar/HTPhoto)

Muslim groups, however, congregated at only six public places that were jointly identified by Hindu-right wing groups and Imam Council of Gurgaon. A group of people did try to disrupt the namaz congregation near Shankar Chowk, Udyog Vihar, and Tau Devi Lal Park in Sector 22, but were turned away by police.

Police also detained some right-wing group members, who were let go after the situation was under control.

Rajiv Yadav, assistant commissioner of police, said that they controlled the situation, did not let anyone create any ruckus, and that namaz was offered peacefully.

Hindu right-wing groups have been protesting against Friday namaz in open public spaces in Gurugram for the last three years. In 2018, the administration designated 37 sites for Muslims to perform the Friday prayers. However, last month, the number of sites was cut down to 20 after members of the right-wing groups and locals continued to protest and disrupt prayers. Muslims, however, have maintained that they were forced to use public spaces since there were not enough mosques in the city.

On December 10, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had said offering namaz at public places cannot be tolerated, even as the district administration withdrew permission for Friday namaz at 20 designated sites amid protests by members of Hindu outfits who parked vehicles and organised programmes to prevent Muslims from offering namaz.

Meanwhile, a group led by Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, legal advisor to Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti (SHSS), an umbrella organisation of Hindu bodies leading the protests against namaz in open spaces, filed two separate complaints at the Sector 29 and Udyog Vihar police stations demanding a complete ban on Friday prayers in open areas.

“Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has given a statement in the assembly saying no namaz will be allowed in open areas. Earlier in Gurugram, the CM had said that namaz in public will not be tolerated. Police and administration should work in view of these statements,” said Kulbhushan Bharadwaj, adding that in his view namaz in open area was a means of “jihad” and a show of strength.

Unlike the past two weeks, when Muslims gathered at multiple designated places (which were later withdrawn by the Haryana government) to offer prayers, this Friday they come together at only six places -- two spots in Udyog Vihar, Sector 42-Golf Course Road, Sector 40, Sector 69, and Sector 29.

Gurugram district has around 500,000 Muslims, of whom around 150,000 offer namaz on Fridays, said officials.

A small group of Muslims gathered in the morning in an open area at Sector 40, but were asked to return by the police. Some Muslim groups claimed that the land belongs to them, but failed to produce papers to prove that, even as some locals contended that the land was reserved for the construction of school.

Mufti Ahmad Salim Qasmi — president of the Gurugram unit of Jamiat Ulama and member of Gurgaon Muslim counsil — said that they have been offering namaz at the Sector 40 spot for the past two weeks. “The place has a makbara (tomb) and in our records it is a kabristan (graveyard). Today we had no paper, we will check with the revenue officials and verify the land records,” said Qasmi, adding that they don’t want any confrontation.

Praveen Yadav, a member of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, who has been leading the protest against Friday namaz in Sirhaul, Sector 37, Sector 22 and Udyog Vihar, said nobody will be allowed to offer prayers in the open across the city. “Even after the CM announced the authorities are still not taking any action against those who are coming to offer namaz in public. The matter has been under control because of us as we are still giving chances but now this is getting too much and we will not let them enter parks and public spaces,” he said.

Altaf Ahmad, spokesperson of the Gurgaon Muslim Council, who approached the apex court on the namaz issue last week, said the intention of right-wing group was not just to stop Juma Nama (Friday namaz) in Gurugram but to remove the Muslim identity altogether from public places. He said that (SHSS) president Mahaveer Bharadwaj was emboldened after returning back from a “Dharma Sansad” in Haridwar (against which cases alleging hate speech have been filed), and alleged that he was calling for a conversion of Muslims to Hindus.

“Could a similar thing be tolerated if Muslims or any other minority community would have given a call for conversion?” he asked.

Bhardwaj called the allegations “baseless”.

“We will continue to fight this issue and not let anyone offer namaz in the open, apart from identified sites which are yet to be decided,” he said.

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