Gurgaon Police on Friday afternoon asked members of the Muslim community to offer namaz 150 metres away from a ‘designated’ site for the prayers in Sector 47, after a group of residents raised objections for the third consecutive week. The prayers were offered amid heavy police deployment.
At 1 pm, 30-35 residents, carrying placards that read ‘stop namaz in open spaces’ and ‘offer namaz in mosque’ and raising ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogans, gathered at the ground opposite the State Vigilance Bureau office in Sector 47. For over an hour, they sang bhajans and hymns while police placed a barricade to stop them from marching to the place where namaz was being offered.
The protesters said Muslims should offer namaz in their homes, mosques or on Waqf board properties and not “block roads”.
At 1 pm, a group of 30-35 residents, carrying placards that read ‘stop namaz in open spaces’ and ‘offer namaz in mosque’, and raising ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogans, gathered at the ground opposite State Vigilance Bureau office in sector 47.https://t.co/nnQQA6hvkZ pic.twitter.com/KgjRHuGd8p
Tulsi Devi, a resident of Sector 47, said, “Local residents have concerns related to security and safety. Earlier, only 20 people used to offer prayers; now there are 200. We don’t know who these ‘outsiders’ are. Petty crime has increased and it has created congestion on access roads.”
Residents said they have given a written representation to the deputy commissioner raising their concerns and have been assured that the matter would be looked into. Till then, they said, they will raise their objection “peacefully”.
Among the protesting residents was Bharat Mata Vahini president Dinesh Bharti, who was arrested last week for allegedly disrupting Friday prayers in the past few months and was booked at Sector 50 police station in April for promoting enmity between communities. He was released on bail this Tuesday.
He claimed, “This is an international conspiracy… they are offering namaz as part of this conspiracy of… love jihad, land jihad. If we don’t raise our voice, they will build a mosque here.”
The site in Sector 47 is among a list of 37 designated sites where prayers could be offered in the open, based on negotiations by the administration with representatives of Muslim and Hindu communities following several disruptions in 2018. The protesters however claim the “arrangement” was not permanent and permission was granted only for a day.
Kuldeep Yadav, councillor of ward 29, said, “If a site has been designated for offering prayers, residents of the area in the vicinity should be consulted. The sector residents are standing here. They were not consulted. There is nothing in writing regarding the permission which was given in 2018 for one day.”
Mufti Mohammad Saleem, president, Jamiat Ulama, Gurgaon, said that on Thursday evening, administration officials had requested them to shift the prayer site by a few metres as some residents had raised objections. “We complied with the request. Our only motive is to pray here in peace. There is a dearth of places where Muslims can pray — there are over 5 lakh Muslims in the city and only 13 mosques. We are praying here in the open under compulsion (majboori). Several workers from nearby come here to pray during lunch time and leave after 15 minutes. I appeal to citizens to let us pray here,” he said.
Altaf Ahmad, one of the founders of Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch, which had sought police action against the disruptions, said, “A group of people are creating an atmosphere of hate and disharmony. Their allegations are false and baseless. I appeal to the administration and state government to allocate land in several sectors of Gurgaon, so the Muslim community can build mosques…”
Former Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Adeeb also expressed anguish at the circumstances in which namaz was being offered at the site: “I am pained to see this. Ye kis kisam ka mulq ban gaya hai (what sort of a country has this become)? Where people are not being allowed to pray, which is their Constitutional right. People who are protesting should be ashamed of their behaviour.”
ACP (Sadar) Aman Yadav said that some residents voiced their concerns regarding namaz being offered in the open at the site. “Residents have been protesting here for the past three-four weeks. They say this land, which is under the government, had been allotted for a market space. The site is among a list of 37 sites that was negotiated by district administration after consultations with members of both communities in 2018. It was not a written agreement. Residents have discussed the matter with the SDM and district administration officials to find a solution. In light of the situation, prayers were offered at a slight distance on the same ground. Prayers were peaceful,” he said.
Gurgaon DC Yash Garg could not be reached for a comment despite repeated attempts.