Gurgaon Police on Friday afternoon asked members of the Muslim community to offer namaz 150 metres away from a ‘designated’ site for the prayers in Sector 47, after a group of residents raised objections for the third consecutive week. The prayers were offered amid heavy police deployment.
At 1 pm, 30-35 residents, carrying placards that read ‘stop namaz in open spaces’ and ‘offer namaz in mosque’ and raising ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogans, gathered at the ground opposite the State Vigilance Bureau office in Sector 47. For over an hour, they sang bhajans and hymns while police placed a barricade to stop them from marching to the place where namaz was being offered.
Tulsi Devi, a resident of Sector 47, said, “Local residents have concerns related to security and safety. Earlier, only 20 people used to offer prayers; now there are 200. We don’t know who these ‘outsiders’ are. Petty crime has increased and it has created congestion on access roads.”
Among the protesting residents was Bharat Mata Vahini president Dinesh Bharti, who was arrested last week for allegedly disrupting Friday prayers in the past few months and was booked at Sector 50 police station in April for promoting enmity between communities. He was released on bail this Tuesday.
He claimed, “This is an international conspiracy… they are offering namaz as part of this conspiracy of… love jihad, land jihad. If we don’t raise our voice, they will build a mosque here.”
Mufti Mohammad Saleem, president, Jamiat Ulama, Gurgaon, said that on Thursday evening, administration officials had requested them to shift the prayer site by a few metres as some residents had raised objections. “We complied with the request. Our only motive is to pray here in peace. There is a dearth of places where Muslims can pray — there are over 5 lakh Muslims in the city and only 13 mosques. We are praying here in the open under compulsion (majboori). Several workers from nearby come here to pray during lunch time and leave after 15 minutes. I appeal to citizens to let us pray here,” he said.
Altaf Ahmad, one of the founders of Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch, which had sought police action against the disruptions, said, “A group of people are creating an atmosphere of hate and disharmony. Their allegations are false and baseless. I appeal to the administration and state government to allocate land in several sectors of Gurgaon, so the Muslim community can build mosques…”
ACP (Sadar) Aman Yadav said that some residents voiced their concerns regarding namaz being offered in the open at the site. “Residents have been protesting here for the past three-four weeks. They say this land, which is under the government, had been allotted for a market space. The site is among a list of 37 sites that was negotiated by district administration after consultations with members of both communities in 2018. It was not a written agreement. Residents have discussed the matter with the SDM and district administration officials to find a solution. In light of the situation, prayers were offered at a slight distance on the same ground. Prayers were peaceful,” he said.
c. The Indian Express