Namaz in open disrupted again, this time in Gurugram’s Sirhaul
Protesters on Friday disrupted namaz (Friday prayers) being offered at a park in Sirhaul village in Sector 18, one of 20 sites designated by the district administration last week for the purpose. However, no violence or untoward incident took place and the situation was soon brought under control, the police later said.
According to the police, about 100 members of Manavta Sanghatan, a Hindu outfit involved in “social service”, and area residents gathered at the park carrying the tricolour and chanting religious slogans. A senior police officer, who was present at the spot, said when locals objected to the namaz being offered in the open, the Muslims shifted to another spot nearby. “The situation was soon controlled,” he said, asking not to be named.
Protests against namaz in the open in Gurugram have been going on since September. They began in Sector 47 and then spread to Sector 12A. Last Friday, Hindu groups organised a Govardhan Puja at the spot in Sector 12A, where namaz used to be offered.
In light of the continued protests, the district administration formed a committee comprising representatives of both communities and officials from the police and the administration last month to resolve the issue. The committee, in consultation with imams, identified 20 public places for Friday prayers last week, including the one in Sirhaul where the prayers were disrupted.
On Friday, most Muslims chose to offer prayers at Sector 57 mosque, after the number of public sites for namaz was reduced from 37 to 20 last week. Namaz was not offered at any of the sites where objections were raised earlier, said officials of district administration on Friday, adding that the payers were only disrupted in Sirhaul, while they were held peacefully at the other 19 designated sites.
Praveen Yadav (33), a resident leading the protest in Sirhaul, said Muslims encroached on parks in the area to pray despite repeated requests by residents to not do so. Sachin Yadav (32), a resident of the village and another protester, said, “We will not allow them to offer prayers in any of the parks. Either they should go to mosques or do it on Waqf board land. If they come here again, things may get ugly.”
The protestors said a park is a public place and people of nearby areas visit it all day. “Many private companies are located close to the park and people working in these companies visit the park during lunch break and residents also spend time in the park during winters. We are not against the offering of prayers but we won’t allow it in the open,” said Praveen.
Rajiv Mittal, a member of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, an umbrella body of several Hindu outfits, said they have given a call to oppose namaz in public places and now people are doing so on their own. “Today, namaz was opposed by local residents of Sirhaul village,” he said.
Responding to the latest disruption, members of the Muslim community said they were being harassed by protesters every week. “After facing issues in Sector 47 and Sector 12A, we shifted our prayers to other sites, but people are after us and are intentionally harassing us. Police and the administration should take action against them,” said Altaf Ahmad, a member of Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch, a citizens’ platform, and spokesperson for Gurgaon Muslim Council.
He said the administration has already reduced the prayer sites from 37 to 20, and land should be allotted to them so that they can set up mosques and not offer prayers in the open. “It seems that the disruptions will not end unless the government assigns us land where we can pray with dignity,” he said.
Ahmad said locals of Sector 12A have taken over the erstwhile namaz site and have smeared the spot with cow dung to dissuade any attempt to hold the prayers there.
Khurshid Rajaka, chairman of Muslim Rashtriya Manch and member of Haryana Waqf Board, said, “Establishing peace should be the priority, not politics.”
An official of the district administration said if residents oppose namaz at a particular site, then the site will be changed. “Namaz will be offered at places where residents have no objection. Maintaining law and order is our priority,” said the official, asking not to be named.
Police had earlier issued a statement saying that permission for namaz at a designated site could be withdrawn if residents of the area continued to raise objections.