People of no faith should offer religious prayers in public places, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said in the state Assembly on Tuesday, reported PTI.
“If they have to hold them, they should do so in temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches,” Khattar said. “It is the responsibility of all to maintain a peaceful atmosphere and to see that there is no confrontation in society.”
His statement came after Congress MLA Aftab Ahmed raised the matter of Hindutva groups disrupting offering of namaz in public places in the state’s Haryana city. They have repeatedly blocked Muslims from gathering for Friday prayers in Gurugram for over three months now.
Giving in to demands of the Hindutva groups, the Gurugram district administration, in the last three months, has withdrawn permission for offering namaz at eight out of 37 public spaces that were designated for prayers.
On December 10, Khattar himself had said that offering namaz in public spaces cannot be tolerated
During Tuesday’s proceedings in the state Assembly, Ahmed said that the Constitution guarantees the citizens’ right to practise their religion.
“In Gurugram, thousands of crores of investment has been pumped in and the city is a symbol of development,” Ahmed said. “What message will be sent out from Gurugram if one cannot offer prayers as per one’s choice?”
He said that Muslims were being forced to offer namaz in open areas as mosques have been encroached in the city.
“Thousands of Muslims come to Gurugram in search of employment and there is not enough space for them to offer prayers,” the Congress MLA said.
Citing Khattar’s statement on offering of namaz in public places, Ahmed added that protecting protecting the right of minorities was the chief minister’s responsibility.
In response, the chief minister said members of Muslim community have agreed to offer namaz in certain areas of the city.
“But when some people hold prayers outside such spots [public places], a situation of confrontation arises,” Khattar said. “It is a local issue, it is not an issue which should be flared up as it can spoil communal harmony.”
He said that annual religious events of all faiths are held with due permission and that there were designated spots to offer daily or weekly prayers.
“And where there is confrontation by offering prayers in open spaces, things should be resolved amicably,” Khttar added.
Last Friday, Hindutva groups had disrupted namaz at a park in the Udyog Vihar are of the city. Videos shared on social media showed them forcing people to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. On that day, Muslims had stayed away from Sector 37 grounds, which is one of the designated sites for namaz in Gurugram.
This particular namaz site has seen several disruptions over the last one month. Hindutva groups had protested on November 20 against Muslims offering prayers at Sector 37 ground, claiming that they wanted to play cricket there.
The groups had also organised a havan ceremony on November 26 at the site to mark the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
On November 5, members of the Hindutva groups had organised a in Sector 12A, after which they spread cow dung across the ground. At the same site, on November 7, those who gathered to prevent the prayers had claimed that a volleyball court will be set up there.
Last week, former Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Adeeb had moved the Supreme Court seeking to initiate contempt proceedings against Haryana’s chief secretary and director general of police for allegedly not taking action against the Hindutva groups.