Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday appeared to back Hindutva groups who have allegedly stopped Muslims in Gurugram from praying in open spaces in recent weeks. Khattar said namaaz should be offered in mosques and not public spaces.
“I believe namaaz should indeed be offered – but in mosques, at Eidgah, and other designated places,” Khattar said at a press conference, according to The Indian Express. “If there is not enough space for namaaz, then it should be offered at a personal place. These are not things that should be put on display in public places.”
There has been a considerable rise in the number of people offering namaaz in open spaces, Khattar said, according to ANI. “It is alright till no one objects [to people offering namaaz in public places],” he said. “But if there are objections from any department, then we have to be careful. We are keeping a watch on it. We are counselling people that namaaz should be offered at appropriate places, not at public places.”
On April 20, around 500 Muslim men had gathered for Friday prayers in a field owned by the Haryana government in Sector 53 of Gurugram. Several Hindu residents from neighbouring villages allegedly disrupted the prayers, and shouted “Jai Sri Ram”. A video of the incident had later surfaced on social media, following which six persons were arrested for hurting religious sentiments. They were later released on bail.
The villagers alleged that Muslims used the weekly prayers as an excuse to encroach on government land. On May 4 as well, Hindutva groups claimed they had stopped Muslims from praying in several open spaces.