Members of Hindutva organisation Bajrang Dal on Saturday stopped Muslims from holding a prayer meeting during Ramzan inside a warehouse in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad city.

In a statement, the Moradabad Police said that they received a complaint about the prayer meeting from residents of the city’s Lajpat Nagar area, which has a “Hindu majority/mixed population”. The meeting was allowed to be held on Saturday in the presence of police, but Muslims of the area have been asked to offer prayers in their homes or religious places, the statement said.

Zakir Hussain, who had organised the prayer meeting in his warehouse, has submitted a written statement to the police station agreeing not to hold any such congregations.

Senior Superintendent of Moradabad Police Hemraj Meena told Scroll that the police asked Hussain to submit a written statement to avoid a similar situation in future.

“He said that only his family will gather for Namaz,” Meena told Scroll. “We acted in a normal course to ensure law and order is maintained but some people are presenting it in the wrong way in the media and social media.”

Meena also said that the police told those objecting to the prayer meeting that they should not have a problem with Muslims offering prayers inside their homes.

The Bajrang Dal has alleged that Hussain started a “new tradition” by holding prayer meetings in his home. Rohan Saxena, state president of the Bajrang Dal, told reporters that the members of the Hindutva organisation and locals intervened after they got to know about the prayer meeting.

“We have told the police that those who want to create new traditions [and] disrupt peace of the city should be booked,” he said. “We will not allow any new tradition,” he said.

Saxena said that his organisation has been demanding cases be registered against those fomenting disharmony. He also warned that if the police fail to file a first information report, the Bajarang Dal will hold an agitation.

However, Meena told Scroll that no action has been taken in the matter yet.

“The police reached the spot to ensure that there was no law and order situation,” he said. “...Those who raised objections were made to understand that offering prayers inside home was allowed and that no one should have an objection.”

The police also told Muslim residents in the area to offer namaz in their homes without inviting their neighbours, Meena said.

“We have not stopped namaz, we advised both sides so that law and order is maintained,” said the police official. “We told them they can do their namaz within the established limits such that it looks normal.”

Over the last few years, there have been a number of instances of Muslims being arrested or harassed for praying in public. Most of the incidents have been reported in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states and the police took action after protests by Hindutva organisations.

The arrests have been made under various charges like promoting enmity, outraging religious feelings and causing public mischief. However, legal experts have told Scroll that arresting people for offering prayers in public is not backed by the Indian law.

Also read: Public worship is everywhere in India – so how are arrests being made for namaz?