The Jharkhand government has issued an order to set aside a room in the new Assembly premises for Muslims to offer Namaz, drawing criticism from Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who demanded space in the building to set up a temple for Hindu deity Hanuman, PTI reported on Saturday.
The order was issued on Thursday but made public only on Saturday. While the Congress welcomed the decision, the BJP accused the Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand government of playing the politics of religious polarisation and appeasement, The Times of India reported.
BJP leader CP Singh told the newspaper that his party was not against any religion. “As per our Constitution, everyone is free to practice the faith of their choice,” Singh said. “Having said so, Parliament and Vidhan Sabhas are regarded as the temple of democracy and not for any specific religion.”
The MLA added: “Therefore, if the state Assembly speaker can provide space for Namaz, we also urge him to provide a place for setting up a Hanuman temple.”
Babulal Marandi, the leader of the Opposition in the Jharkhand Assembly, and Biranchi Narayan, the chief whip of BJP, said the Jharkhand government should allot worship rooms for other religions too, PTI reported. They said the the order was unconstitutional.
Narayan asked Jharkhand Assembly Speaker Rabindra Mahato to withdraw the “unparliamentary order of Muslim appeasement”, according to PTI.
The BJP leader added in his letter to Mahato: “If you are unable to set aside this order due to any pressure or appeasement, then I will be compelled to approach the court in this matter.”
Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das said the BJP would stage protests if the Jharkhand government does not take back the order.
Amid the BJP clamour, Jharkhand’s Minority Welfare Minister Hafizul Ansari said that in the absence of a Namaz room, Muslim politicians had to go back home for prayers and then rush to the Assembly to attend sessions, India Today reported.
Ansari added: “The BJP’s character is well known to all. It is always on the lookout to play politics on trivial issues connected to religion.”
Assembly Speaker Mahato said there was a designated room for Namaz in the old Assembly building too. “Since the House has shifted to a new Assembly building and no space was marked for Namaz, a room has now been allotted,” he told the news channel.