Offering namaz in open spaces will not be tolerated: chief minister of India’s Haryana state
Offering namaz in open spaces will not be tolerated: chief minister of India’s Haryana state
Policemen stand guard while Muslims pray in the Indian city of Gurgaon. — Photo courtesy

The chief minister of the Indian state of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, on Friday said that namaz and other religious activities should only be offered at their designated places and not in the open, stressing that the practice will "not be tolerated" , local media reported.

The move comes after weeks of tension in the city of Gurgaon — also called Gurugram — where Hindu groups have been disrupting Friday prayers and putting pressure on authorities to stop Muslims from offering the prayers in open spaces.

Khattar said the government had informed the police and the deputy commissioner that the issue needed to be resolved. "To resolve it, everyone offers prayers at their own place," the chief minister was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

"Someone offers namaz, someone does paath (recitation of holy texts), someone does puja (worship) — we have no issue with that. And religious places are built for these purposes only so that prayers are offered there."Such practices should not take place in the open. This practice of offering namaz prayers here in the open will not be tolerated."

Authorities had reached an agreement in 2018 whereby Muslims were allowed to offer prayers at designated areas in the city. That agreement has now been withdrawn, with Khattar saying the Gurgaon administration was "renegotiating" with all parties to work out an "amicable" solution that would not encroach on anyone's rights, NDTV reported.

"They (Muslims) have said that they have several places where they should be given permission [to pray]. Some of their properties or those under Waqf board are encroached upon … how they can be made available to them is being discussed. Or they can offer prayers in their homes. Offering namaz in the open and this confrontation, we will not allow this confrontation to continue," Khattar said, according to The Indian Express report.

Hours before the chief minister's statement, Gurgaon locals and members of pro-Hindutva groups took over an area in sector 37, which had been designated for prayers, the report added. They held a "condolence meet" to mourn the death of Indian defence chief Bipin Rawat, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday.

The group also chanted slogans of "Jai Shree Ram" (Hail Lord Ram) and "Bharat Mata ki Jai" (Hail Mother India) at the site.

Prayers were also disrupted at designated sites in sectors 29 and 44 of the city, the report said.

In October, dozens of people, many from Hindu right-wing groups, were arrested in Gurgaon for disrupting Friday prayer gatherings.

Police had deployed several hundred extra personnel and arrested at least 30 people as crowds of locals and Hindu groups chanted slogans, local media reported.

Critics have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of persecuting minorities, including India's 200-million-strong Muslim population.

Modi's government rejects having a Hindu agenda and claims that people of all religions have equal rights. Haryana state, of which Gurgaon is the capital, is ruled by the BJP.

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