A key organiser of Friday prayers in Noida’s Sector 58 Thursday appealed to Muslims not to gather at a park, which was declared off-limits to religious gatherings by the police, as permission has not been granted for holding prayers there.
The 45-year-old Adil Rashid, one of the organisers of the Friday namaaz at the park, told PTI he did not want to “whip up” any further controversy on the issue. Police said they will be monitoring the situation tomorrow.
Early this month, the Nodia Police had issued orders stating that Friday prayers cannot be held at the government plot as there was no requisite permission.
“I had made an application to the administration for permission to allow namaaz in the park and it has been denied. So I want to appeal to the people who may not be aware of this that please do not come to that park tomorrow, and find other appropriate places for offering namaaz,” Rashid told PTI.
The 24-year-old cleric Noman Akhtar, who claimed to have been leading the prayers in the park since 2013, said he won’t be going there for the namaaz Friday.
Rashid and Akhtar were taken into preventive custody on December 18 for the “unauthorised” use of the park for prayers and then jailed for three days, they said.
Akhtar said he was only aware that the organisers had written to the authorities concerned for the permission, and he was asked by the organisers to come and lead the prayers, which is a usual practice.
“After the controversy erupted, I was asked on December 17 to come to the police station the next day for a meeting. I had no idea that I would be detained and then sent to jail,” he told PTI.
“Now, I am getting calls from relatives and acquaintances asking me about the incident… I feel ashamed,” he said. “Now I will be cautious of reading prayers even in authorised public places.”
Both said the prayers have been held in the park since 2013 and never did anyone have any problem with it, and neither did the Noida Authority, on whose land the park is located, raised any objections.
“Neither I want to be a hero, nor whip the controversy up any further on this issue. I am a simple man so I won’t go the park tomorrow and request others also not to come there,” Rashid said in his appeal.
Noting that a complaint was made to the local police that “outsiders” come and use the park without permission, he said most of the people offering prayers were workers of private companies and it was obvious for them to come from far off places.
“I have been living in Noida for last 33 years and even have a Noida Authority flat which was allotted to me in Sector 82 in 2004. I rent out RO filters and have a contract with two firms in Sector 58. I also sell small RO units locally. If I have work in this area, it is obvious that I’ll find place for prayers in this area only,” Rashid said.
He said the administration had cited a Supreme Court order to disallow the religious gathering in the public park, but asked if the apex court has also directed that the community not be provided space for offering namaaz when required.
Rashid said there are no mosques nearby and for reaching the nearest one also people would have to travel at least 7 to 8 kms.
“Most of the people who gathered here (in the park) are private company employees and it is not possible to manage to go there given the limited duration of lunch time. While in the park, it was only a matter of 10 minutes,” he said.
He claimed that a mosque was to come up in Sector 12 but the matter has been pending for long with the communications between the administration and the Noida Authority not yielding any result.
“There are lakhs of Muslims in the district but very few mosques. There are two in Sector 8. Then in Khoda colony, which is not even in Noida, has small mosques where some people go. But it becomes difficult for so many people with limited designated places for prayers. This leads them to using streets and roads also,” he said.
Akhtar said that in 2013 there would be lesser number of people attending the prayers and last Friday the number would have been around 1,500. He said people from other nearby sectors also used to join them in the park.