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MP District Tense After Court Notice on PILs Seeking ban on Namaz at Bhojshala Complex

Kashif Kakvi |
As per an ASI arrangement, puja is allowed on Tuesdays and Namaz on Fridays on the disputed site.
MP bhojshala.

Bhopal:An uneasy calm prevails in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district two days after the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court (HC) issued notices to the Centre, the state government, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and five others over the 11th century disputed structure of Bhojshala, which Hindus claim as Waghdevi (Saraswati) temple and Muslims as Kamal Maula Mosque.

The court also issued notices to Maulana Kamaluddin Welfare Society, which is associated with a mosque situated on the Bhojshala premises.

The markets around the complex remain closed in some areas ahead of the first Friday prayers after the court order and security has been beefed up in the town, the police said.

As per an ASI arrangement on April 7, 2003, Hindus can perform puja on the premises every Tuesday while Muslims can offer Namaz on Fridays.

Hearing the two public interest litigations (PILs) filed by the Hindu Front for Justice and others from the Hindu community seeking to reclaim the Bhojshala complex for Hindus and prohibit Muslims from offering Namaz on its premises, a two-Judge Division Bench of Justices Vivek Rusia and Justice Amarnath Kesharwani issued notices to the parties after finding the PIL “comprehensive”,  advocate Harishankar Jain, representing the petitioners, told the media.

The petitioners, according to Jain, also demanded that the statue of Waghdevi (Saraswati), which is in a museum in London, be brought back to India and re-established in Bhojshala. The then-rulers of Dhar had installed the in 1034 AD and it was taken by the British to London in 1857, the petition claimed.

Counsel for the petitioner submits that he has filed some more documents which are not available in those writ petitions strengthening the claim of this present petitioner. Therefore, they may be permitted to file this petition in the nature of Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Since a similar issue is under challenge and the Archaeological Survey of India is contesting the matter, therefore, the petition is admitted. Issue notice,” the Bench said, LiveLaw reported.

The petitioners also sought interim relief by directing the respondents to produce coloured photographs of inscriptions available within the Bhojshala complex before the court, according to LiveLaw.

The petitioners submitted “historic facts about Bhojshala and its photos before the High Court to challenge the ASI’s arrangement under different provisions of the Constitution”, Jain said adding that the petitions are likely to be heard on June 27.

The petitioners also sought the court’s direction for the Centre to conduct radiocarbon dating to find out an estimate of the ages of the Bhojshala complex and its artefacts, sculptures, images, inscriptions, etc. and the ASI to excavate the land in and around the complex to find out the nature of construction or any material lying therein.

This is not the first time when the city is tensed over the disputed site. In the last decade, several Hindu organisations had demanded a ban on Friday prayers inside the complex.

The structure becomes a flashpoint when Vasant Panchami, also referred to as Saraswati Puja, falls on a Friday as in 2003, 2006, 2013 and 2016. Whenever Vasant Panchmi is on Friday, the district administration beefs up security.

During the 2013 Saraswati Puja on a Friday, the police had to use force to disperse a Hindu group which was angry about being forced out of Bhojshala to make way for Namaz.

On February 12 (Friday), 2016, the Bhoj Utsav Samiti wanted to conduct an ‘Akhand’ (non-stop) Puja to mark Vasant Panchami but the district administration prevented it.  When the ASI ordered Hindus to pray from sunrise to 12.30 pm and then from 3.30 pm till sunset and Muslims from 1 pm to 3 pm on that day, Hindu organisations rejected the arrangement warning that there will be either puja or Namaz at the shrine.

Taking a high ground after the court order, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Huzur Assembly seat Rameshwar Sharma said in a statement: “Hindu-Muslim peace can only last if Bhojshala is handed over to Hindus. Unity can prevail only if puja is performed inside the structure.”

The Congress termed the PILs as an attempt to divert people’s attention from increasing inflation, unemployment, power cuts and fuel prices. When the state is reeling under a debt of more than Rs 3.27 lakh crore and the BJP government has failed to provide employment even after 20 years of rule, it is using such issues to divide Hindus and Muslims, the Congress said. Highlighting the Bhojshala issue a year before the Assembly election indicates that Hindu-Muslim division is the BJP’s only agenda, the party added.

Former president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee’s minority cell Mujeeb Qureshi, who had fought for the Bhojshala issue, told Newsclick over the phone, “Several attempts were made by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members and other right-wing groups to prohibit Muslims from praying inside the complex but they failed. 

We will present our side before the court.”

(With PTI inputs)

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