A day after a citizens’ forum wrote to the Gurgaon police commissioner urging action against a group for allegedly disrupting namaz and disturbing communal harmony in the city, Friday prayers were offered at a site in Sector 47 amid heavy police deployment.
Though the situation remained peaceful, a group of 20-25 residents from nearby sectors arrived at the time of namaz to voice their opposition to prayers being offered in an open space, citing “security” and traffic concerns.
Senior police officers said the residents were informed that the said site was among a list of 37 designated by the district administration for reading prayers in the city after consultation with representatives of the Muslim community in 2018.
Aman Yadav, assistant commissioner of police (ACP), Sadar, said, “Some residents arrived at the site for disruption of prayers. They said they don’t want the prayers to be conducted in the open here. We informed them that this site is among the list of designated sites. We have asked the residents that if they have any concerns, they should form a committee of five representatives and flag their concerns to the district administration officials in the coming week to discuss the future course of action. The namaz was offered peacefully here today.”
Around 12.45 pm, people arrived at the site to commence prayers. Mohammad Arif, who works at a store in a mall nearby, said he had been coming to the site for over three years, but had witnessed objections only during the last one month.
“There was no problem earlier. Only for the past 2-3 weeks, some people come here and disrupt prayers and ask us to vacate the area. We are all wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and praying in peace,” he said.
Dalbir Malik, a resident of Sector 47, said, “This land is under the government. We are local residents and we object to anyone practicing their religion on the roads… Who are these outsiders? There is a security threat for us residents. It also creates a huge traffic problem since access to the road is blocked. This is creating tension among communities.”
Residents who had gathered to oppose the namaz claimed that the sites designated in May 2018 by the district administration were for only a specific period of time.
Kuldeep Yadav, councillor of ward 29, said, “I will raise the matter in the House as well. If a site has been designated, the residents of that area in the vicinity should also be consulted. The permission granted by the administration in 2018 was for one day, it was not permanent.”
Police said that at other sites where prayers were offered in the open, the situation remained peaceful.
Altaf Ahmad, one of the founding members of the Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch (GNEM), said, “Some people are trying to gain political mileage from this issue. There is a dearth of places where we can pray. In new Gurgaon area, there is only one mosque in Sector 57, which doesn’t have capacity… And everyone cannot afford to go to Sector 57.”
On Thursday, members of the GNEM had met the DCP headquarters and raised the issue of disruption of namaz by members of a group called Bharat Mata Vahini.