In a move that has triggered concern in Noida’s industrial hub, the Uttar Pradesh Police has ordered offices and establishments to direct their Muslim employees to stop offering Friday prayers in open areas such as parks.
According to a notice issued last week by police stations in Noida, including at the Sector 58 industrial hub, companies will be held liable if their employees are found violating the directive.
It is learnt that companies in the area have sought a meeting with senior Noida police officers for clarification on the matter, particularly on the clause that threatens to hold them liable for violations of the order by employees.
Executives of some of the companies who have been served the notices said there is widespread concern among units in sectors other than where the notices have already been served. It has also sparked worries that the ambit of the directive could be widened to include other areas in the National Capital Region township. Sector 58 is predominantly an IT and services hub.
The Noida Police has defended the move citing concerns that communal harmony could be disturbed, especially in the run-up to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
“Yes, we have sent notices to many companies in our area after several complaints regarding a large number of people offering Namaz in the afternoon especially on Fridays. Since most people offering prayers are employees in companies nearby, we have sent notices to those companies to ask their employees to either offer Namaz in a Masjid, Eidgah or within the office compound on the roof etc,” said Pankaj Rai, SHO of the Sector 58 police station, from where the initial round of notices were issued.
Noida SSP, Ajay Pal Sharma, did not respond to text messages. The police notice states: “We want to inform you that there is no permission from the administration to conduct any kind of religious activity including Namaz offered on Friday in the Authority park in Sector 58. It has been often seen that the Muslim workers of your company assemble in the park to offer Namaz and I, the SHO, have told the group to not hold prayers in the park. Also, their plea to the city magistrate has not received any permission to do so.”
“Thus, it is expected from you that you at your level inform your Muslim employees to not come to the park to offer Namaz. If employees of your company come to the park, it will be assumed that you have not informed your employees and your company will be held liable.”
According to Rai, an increasing number of people offering payers had triggered the notices. “Earlier only around 10-15 people assembled in the parks to offer Friday prayers and there were no complaints regarding that. However, over the last few weeks, the numbers have risen significantly. Over the last couple of weeks, around 500-600 people assembled in the afternoon to offer Namaz and we got several complaints regarding such assembly of people in the public park,” he said.
“When we spoke to some of the attendees, we found that many of them were not even working in the companies in the area. So, what is happening is that seeing people assembling for Namaz, others are also assembling,” he said.
“The elections are approaching and there is some concern on that front too, as it may lead to some disharmony,” he said, adding that companies need not worry about the notices. “While companies can’t do anything about private matters, we expect the companies to inform their employees that the company has received a notice regarding the issue and they need to offer Namaz either in Masjids, Eidgahs or within their office premises,” he said.
Spread over 20,316 hectares, Noida has about 15,280 hectares notified for urban use. Of this, around 1,270 hectares have been developed for commercial and industrial activities. The companies that have offices in Noida include HCL Technologies, Alstom Systems, Xansa, Interra, Polaris, R Systems, RMSI, Cadence, Adobe international, TCS, ST Microelectronics, Samsung and Minda Huf.