BARELY four days ago, the Gurgaon police arrested 26 protesters, including members of right-wing outfits, for attempting to disrupt and block Friday namaz in Gurgaon. This despite the fact that prayers were being held at sites among the 37 “designated” by the administration in May 2018 after consultations with members of Hindu and Muslim communities.
On Tuesday, the district administration withdrew permission for namaz at eight of these sites in the city. In a statement by the Gurgaon police, the authorities stated that the decision was taken after “objection from local residents and resident welfare associations”.
Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner Yash Garg also constituted a committee comprising a sub-divisional magistrate, an ACP-level police officer, members of Hindu and Muslim communities, and social organisations to identify the list of spots where Friday namaz can be offered “in the future”.
“In the last two days, I have met delegations of both the communities. A committee has been formed and it will deliberate with all the stakeholders to try and mediate a solution in the coming days,” Garg said.
The committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday.
The police statement said, “The committee will ensure that namaz is not offered on any road, crossing or a public place. The decision to identify or designate a spot for namaz will only be taken after taking consent from local residents and ensuring that the residents of the area do not have any opposition to offering of namaz in that area. The administration will ensure that the decision does not cause inconvenience to general public and that law and order is maintained. Namaz can be offered at any mosque, Eidgah or a private/designated place.”
It further added that permission from administration was mandatory for offering namaz at any public or open space.
Hours before the order was circulated, members of right-wing outfits that came together under the banner of Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti met the DC around 11 am, reiterating that they would continue to oppose namaz at all the 37 “designated” sites.
After meeting the DC today, Mahavir Bhardwaj, state president of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, said they had been informed that the Muslim community had decided not to offer namaz at the designated locations.
“They have themselves withdrawn. But, why they have done it and under whose pressure… everyone knows. We have maintained from the start that no site has been designated for offering namaz in public places. The list from 2018 is fake. It does not have our consent or signatures from anyone from our organisation. Our demand remains the same – that namaz will not be offered at any public place. The administration can make alternative arrangements for the next few weeks till a solution is found,” he said.
Bhardwaj added that on Friday, the group would conduct Govardhan Puja at the Sector 12 site, where the protesters were arrested on October 29 for attempting to disrupt namaz before being released on bail the same day.
“We have requested the administration to withdraw the case against 26 people who were arrested last Friday for peacefully opposing namaz. Some previous cases related to closure of meat shops also should be withdrawn. Only then will we join the committee. We are expecting a crowd of over 5000 for the puja,” he said.
Shehzad Khan, chairman of the Muslim Ekta Manch called the withdrawal of permission for namaz “unconstitutional”. “We will oppose it in the meeting of the committee. I fail to understand the pressure under which this has been decided. We had held meetings with officials in good faith. It was agreed upon that we would relocate from the Sector 12 site if the Hindu community wants to conduct a pooja there. We had said that if Waqf board properties are cleared of encroachments, we can offer namaz there. But this order goes against that spirit. Where will we offer namaz? Gurgaon has over 5 lakh Muslims and only 13 mosques to offer prayers,” he said.
On Monday, members of the Muslim community had met the DC and demanded that the administration either allot them additional land to build mosques or clear 19 mosques and Waqf board properties of encroachments.
Incidentally, on October 30, launching the BJP’s election campaign in Uttarakhand, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that once, during an earlier Congress regime, his convoy was stopped on a highway in the state, allegedly because there was namaz being offered on the road. “My convoy was stopped, and I asked what happened. They told me that on Fridays, the national highway is shut and people are permitted to offer namaz on it. They even thought of declaring Friday a holiday. Those who do appeasement can never work for Devbhoomi…,” he had said.