Secular Action Network Volume 1, Issue 1

Communal tension in MP town over ASI-protected waqf property

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Communal tension in MP town over ASI-protected waqf property

By Pervez Bari,,

Bhopal: Palpable communal tension is pervading in Dhār town, located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh state in central India, wherein a standoff between two communities over the use of an old historic Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monument known as Kamaal Maula Masjid/Bhojshala on February 15, 2013 when Basant Panchami has coincided with Friday prayers.

Hindus in violation of the ASI directives are hell bent to occupy the monument on Friday February 15, the whole day to perform religious rituals on the occasion of Basant Panchami, while Muslims as per tradition are not ready to forgo their special Friday prayers in the afternoon which has ASI sanctions.

A view of prayer room of Kamaal Maula Masjid in Dhar.

A raging battle for supremacy between Hindus and Muslims, which has all the trappings of another Babri Masjid dispute at Ayodhya, seems to snowball in Dhar, a tribal-dominated district. Both the communities are adamant not to give leeway to the other and offer prayers in the 11th century shrine “Bhojshala” on February 15.

“Bhojshala” is a notified Central Waqf monument under the supervision of the ASI which maintains it. The monument houses Kamaal Maula Mosque where Muslims are permitted to offer Friday prayers by the ASI. While an unused water tank meant for ablution in the complex wherein Hindus are allowed to celebrate their Basant Panchami festival.

It may be pointed out here that ASI has fixed different timings people of both the communities for entry into the Bhojshala complex on February 14 and 15. A similar order was issued by the ASI in 2006, when a similar controversy cropped up.

MP Government on Tenterhooks

The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) ruled Madhya Pradesh Government is on tenterhooks as Hindu saints and seers camping at Allahabad in Kumbh Mela have threatened to swamp Dhar town if Muslims are allowed to perform Juma prayers on February 15 as it would impede their day-long Basant Panchami celebrations in Bhojshala. The Madhya Pradesh Government’s bid to dissuade the saints and seers from their resolve has failed.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh had deputed his Culture Minister Laxmikant Sharma along with BJP Organisational general secretary Arvind Menon as state government’s representatives to deliberate with saints and seers to allow Muslims to offer Juma prayers. Sharma and Menon, who were air-dashed in the state plane, apprised Shankaracharya Swami Narendranand Saraswati, Swami Premanand Giri and other saints with scenario on Bhojshala issue. They reportedly told them that the state government holds the responsibility to maintain law and order in this matter while ASI under the Central Government which controls the monument has issued the directives of Puja and Namaz timings.

According to sources state government representatives’ plea fell on dumb ears and the saints did not budge from their stand that if Namaz is allowed on February 15 then they would agitate. It is learn that large number of saints along with Swami Narendranand Saraswati are preparing to reach Dhar and offer Puja on Friday on Basant Panchami. These saints clearly said to the representatives that suppression of Hindu community would not be tolerated for state government’s vote bank politics. On return on Wednesday evening Sharma and Menon apprised Chief Minister Chouhan of the whole state of affairs. Chouhan has issued orders to strengthen security arrangements in the wake of saints moving towards Dhar.

The Dhar district administration is in a fix as how to avoid a likely clash between Hindus and Muslims on February 15. Massive security cordon has been thrown around the Bhojshala/Kamaal Moula mosque as defiant saffron organizations are adamant on not vacating the premises of the controversial religious structure on February 15 for the time allotted by the ASI to Muslims to offer Friday Namaz. The defiance has only aggravated tension even as the Dhar district administration has taken precautionary measures to avert any untoward situation on Basant Panchami.

Maharaja Bhoj Utsav Samiti, the organization spearheading the campaign for exclusive right to the Hindus to offer prayer on February 15, declared on Wednesday that Hindus will continue prayers throughout the day at Bhojshala on February 15.

Samiti president Ashok Jain and Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM) district convenor Nirbhay Singh Patel, reportedly said that the celebrations on February 15 have been scheduled and will not be changed. Jain alleged that the district administration is creating an environment of fear by flag marches, domination marches and pressuring social volunteers. The administration has erected barricades everywhere in the district ahead of Basant Panchami, he alleged.

The administration has already made a dozen preventive arrests including that of Nawal Kishor Sharma, the main instigator and former RSS Pracharak.

Meanwhile, according to an order issued by the ASI Director General Pravin Srivastava on Monday last, the Muslim community would be allowed access to the premises on February 15 from 1 pm to 3 pm. While the Hindu community shall be permitted access to the premises on February 14 from morning till evening and on February 15, they would be allowed entry morning to evening except between 12 to 3.30 pm, it said. The order has been issued as a special case and is applicable only on February 14 and 15, it mentioned. Bhojshala complex is home to a Saraswati temple and Kamaal Maula mosque.

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