Following last week’s failure by worshippers to heed calls by religious leaders and police to offer prayers at home, mosques around Maharashtra remained empty on Friday amid heavy police presence.
Following orders issued by the state government on March 24, ordering all places of worship to shut down immediately, the police had reached to out imams of the mosques. A senior Mumbai Police officer said that mosques have been making announcements to worshippers to pray from the safety of their homes. “We have been using the public announcement systems to remind residents that all religious institutions will remain closed. Even in temples, only priests are allowed to enter,” he added.
A senior state police officer said there were no reports of worshippers attending mosques on Friday for afternoon prayers.
“We asked imams to record audio and video messages and circulated their appeals on WhatsApp groups and social media,” said the officer. Similar video appeals were recorded by imams in districts across Maharashtra, the officer added.
In Bhandara, a local cleric asked residents not to go to mosques as COVID-19 can spread easily through close contact with infected individuals. In Beed, SP Harssh Poddar said that reaching out to local Muslim leaders and placing police cordons outside mosques ensured that worshippers did not violate the curfew and maintained a safe distance from each other. “At each mosque, we allowed only the muezzin to enter on Friday and make appeals to the people to pray in their homes,” he said. The outreach, Poddar added, began two days ago with a meeting with imams in the district’s seven major towns and a request for them to ensure that no more than five persons entered mosques at any given time. “We brought that figure down to zero today,” he said.
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