ASI compromise flouted: Activists stone cops, block Muslim worshippers
MILIND GHATWAI, Indian Express, DHAR, FEBRUARY 3
Chaos reigned in Dhar today as the Hindu Jagran Manch occupied the Bhojshala premises,
stoned the police when they tried to evict them, and blocked the road that Muslims were supposed to take to offer namaz.
Several rounds of negotiations between the two communities over the last few days had failed, leading the authorities to anticipate trouble and deploy thousands of policemen at the site today.
At around 12.15 pm today, about 15 minutes before devotees in the disputed complex were to vacate the premises to allow Muslims to perform namaz as stipulated by an Archaeological Society of India-devised compromise, activists inside the complex started clapping and squatting where they stood.
When they were forcibly evicted around 1 pm, they dared the police to shoot them. Minutes later, security personnel got orders to prepare to flush out all those inside the complex. Those who were pushed out started throwing stones. Volunteers who had gathered in the fields behind the monument also pitched in. Around 1.30 pm, police lobbed tear gas shells, used water canons and caned activists who were challenging them. The administration even announced curfew but later claimed the announcement was restricted only to gatherings of five or more persons.
With the authorities escorting 14 Muslims to offer a token namaz on the rooftop of the disputed structure, the administration claims it has done its job by keeping the ASI-fixed time schedule for today’s prayers—sunrise to 12.30 pm and 3.30 pm to sunset for Hindus, and 1 pm to 3 pm for Muslims.
But neither community is satisfied. When the token namaz was being offered, a few sadhus and activists raised slogans against the community. ‘‘We don’t consider it a namaz because Bajrang Dal activists were squatting there when we offered prayers,’’ said Kazi Vakar Siddique. The token namaz means little, he said, and the community will hold a meeting to decide its course of action.
Ashish Basu of the Manch accused the administration of using force. ‘‘Even if token, namaz did take place inside the premises on Basant Panchami,’’ he said but claimed victory. ‘‘Even though Hindus were caned, chased away and curfew imposed, we did succeed in creating awareness which was our main objective.’’