A day after a police notice was sent to companies in Noida’s Sector 58 against holding prayers in a park in the area, Gautam Budh Nagar administration said it was specific to a park in Sector 58 and did not apply wholly to the district.
It also said that the notice had been sent as permission to hold prayers at the park had not been granted by relevant authorities.
“A few people had asked for permission to hold religious prayers at a park in Sector 58, which was not granted by the city magistrate. But people congregated there; the companies in the area were informed about it. The information is not specific to any particular religion,” said Senior Superintendent of Police (Gautam Budh Nagar) Dr Ajay Pal Sharma.
The notice has met with opposition. Adil Rashid, who runs a website called mohamaddiyantrust.com, that claims to look after the interest of Muslims in Sector 58, stood outside the DM office with a letter signed by hundreds of devotees.
“Namaz has been read for many years at the park… our tradition is being challenged… On behalf of all devotees who wish to offer prayers, I will submit a letter to the authorities seeking fresh permission,” he said. The notice, issued to 23 companies in the industrial hub of Sector 58, read: “The companies are requested to ask their Muslim employees to not offer namaz in the park belonging to Noida Authority in Sector 58, since there is no permission. If any Muslim employee of the company is found to be reading namaz in the park, the individual’s company will be responsible.”
District Magistrate B N Singh, in a press conference Tuesday, said the notice has to be taken into context. “There was information that hundreds of people had started gathering in a public place in Sector 58, which belongs to the Noida Authority. As per a 2009 Supreme Court order, for any such religious activity to take place, permission needs to be sought from the owner of the land and the administration. In this case, there was no permission,” he said.
Authorities said devotees have been reading namaz in the park since 2013. But in the last few days, authorities claimed, people had been gathering in large numbers. “We cannot speak on behalf of the Noida Authority, but the fact remains that if permission is not granted, religious activities need to be halted,” said Singh.
He added, “The companies cannot be and will not be held liable for personal activities of their employees. Every employee has the personal freedom to practice and propagate their religion, the way they wish to. In fact, we welcome companies to come and set up their base in the city and add to the economic sphere.”
Station House Officer (Sector 58) Pankaj Rai, who wrote the letter, said: “Initially, when 10-15 people gathered to read namaz, we did not raise an issue. But when the numbers started increasing, we had to look at it through a law and order perspective. We received complaints from residents of Bishanpura and nearby localities… Since no permission exists, we have to enforce the law.”
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