//Curfew lifted after clashes at Bhojshala

Curfew lifted after clashes at Bhojshala

Friday, February 3, 2006 (Dhar):Curfew has been lifted in parts of the communally sensitive town of Dhar in Madhya Pradesh.Earlier, the police had to resort to lathicharge and fire tear gas shells after clashes with with devotees.The trouble began when almost 20,000 Hindu devotees came to the Bhojshala temple complex to offer prayers on the occasion of Basant Panchami.But the devotees refused to leave at their allotted time. They were being asked to leave so that Muslim devotees could offer Friday prayers.

Curfew was then imposed after the devotees forcibly tried to enter the complex. "Some anti-social elements were trying to disrupt the peace in Dhar. We took them under control and we thrashed them," said Kailash Vijay Varghese, PWD Minister, Dhar. Although later than the designated time, a small group of Muslim men were allowed to say their Friday prayers, but for just half an hour.

Communal tension — Bhojshala, a temple built by Raja Bhoj in the sixteenth century, was later converted into a mosque. An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) monument, Bhojshala has been a constant source of tension in the city.The site came into prominence with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) challenging the state government orders that allowed Hindus to perform puja at the site only once a year, on Basant Panchami. In 1997, the state government allowed Muslims access to the premises every Friday. Then in 2003, the Centre allowed the state government to have Hindus perform puja in the temple every Tuesday. But this year, Basant Panchmi has fallen on a Friday, giving rise to tensions between the two communities.

The ASI had asked Hindus to perform puja from sunrise to 12:30 pm (IST) at Bhojshala, while Muslims were to offer namaz from 1 pm to 3 pm (IST). Despite several rounds of negotiations with leaders of both the communities, no agreement was reached on the request that Hindus be allowed exclusively to perform puja at the site. "Hindus know how to right a wrong. They will come back, re-energised, and take revenge for this insult. We will free Bhojshala," said Radhey Shyam Yadav, Representative, Hindu Jagran Manch. Now people hope that the administration will take necessary steps to ensure that there is no revengeful action by one community against the other, so that peace is not disturbed in Dhar and other parts of Madhya Pradesh.