SPEAKING FOR the first time on the rising incidents of Hindu outfits preventing Muslims from offering namaz in open spaces in Gurgaon, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday said such congregations should be restricted to mosques, eidgahs or “private places”.
“Humara kehna hai ki jo namaz padne ke sthaan hain, namaz padni hi chahiye. Namaz masjid me padni chahiye, namaz eidgah me padni chahiye, aur namaz padne ka unka sthaan kam padta hai to apne niji sthaan par padni chahiye. Ye aisee vishay nahi hai jinka sarvajanahik sthano par pradarshan ho (In our point of view, namaz should be offered at designated places. Namaz should be offered at mosques and eidgahs. And if there is a shortage of space, then namaz should be offered in a private place. This is not something which should be displayed at public places),” Khattar told reporters in Chandigarh.
Hours later, Khattar clarified that he had not said anything about stopping anyone from offering namaz. Responding to questions raised by mediapersons at the IGI Airport in New Delhi, before leaving for his Israel-United Kingdom tour, Khattar said: “If anyone has any problem regarding offering of prayers at public places, he could inform the administration and the police. It is the responsibility of the administration and police to maintain law and order and the state government is bound to maintain peace.”
Earlier, Khattar said that there has been an increase in instances of namaz being offered in open spaces. “Till the time nobody raises any objection (on offering namaz at public places), it is okay. But if there is an objection from any department, then we have to be careful. So we are keeping a watch on it. It was going well earlier, but there has been an increase in the instances of namaz being offered in open spaces… We are counseling everyone that namaz should be offered at appropriate places, not in public places,” he said.
According to the government, some organisations have submitted complaints regarding namaz being offered in public spaces. Several outfits, under the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, have called for a ban on the practice of offering namaz in open spaces.
Meanwhile, Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) chief Ashok Tanwar criticised Khattar for his statement. “Many of the religious and social functions are held in public spaces… In case of scarcity of space, people use public places (for such events). The chief minister’s statement doesn’t show equal treatment for all… The BJP and RSS always have an agenda of playing with religious sentiments and disturbing communal harmony,” he said.