Gurugram: Muslims in various parts of Gurugram were on Friday barred from offering namaz at certain places and asked to move to spots approved by the administration after threats by some right-wing outfits.
The Haryana government had identified 23 places in Gurugram, six in Manesar and eight in Udyog Vihar to allow Muslims to offer Friday prayers. Those who came to offer prayers at places other than these were turned away by policemen and district administration officials. The men were asked to go to the designated spot “for their own safety.”
The move meant that many Muslims had to miss out on Friday prayers as the places designated for them were too far.
A green belt near St Xaviers School in Sector 49-50 that has been used to offer prayers by Muslims for several years was one such place. Till last Friday, about 50 people had come her for their prayers. This Friday, however, only 25 turned up but were asked to leave for one of the designated places nearby.
“It’s for their own safety. We have not asked them to not offer namaaz but are just asking them to move to the spot designated by the government,” said a police officer present there, adding that the group of men peacefully agreed.
He said that those who came to offer namaz here would often park their vehicles on the side of the road, causing traffic jams and increasing the chances of accidents. The maulvi who has been conducting the Friday namaz here for the last two years told News18 that Muslims pray on the side of the road or any such public place due to a lack of time.
“Most of the people who pray in public places are those who have a short lunch break. They don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Same was the case with this tiny area near St Xaviers School. We don’t want anyone to be bothered by our religion or our religious practices, hence we have decided to move to the designated place,” he said, adding that the designated spot was quite far for many people.
“Now with Ramzan and the scorching heat, offering prayers at such a distant place would be difficult,” he added.
The men who offered their prayers here were asked to move to a mosque in sector 57, which the maulvi says is about 5-6 kilometres away. “That’s a lot of travel for those who don’t have a lot of time on their hands,” he added. The distance between their usual spot and the mosque led to many of them skipping their Friday prayers this time, he added.
The police officials present there further said that the men were asked to leave their work places a bit earlier so that they could reach the government designated spot in time for prayers. Interestingly, the authorities have ensured that a Muslim officer, wherever possible, is at the spot so that there was no miscommunication.
In Bengali Market area near sector 49, Muslims were allowed to offer Friday prayers but were told to move to the designated spot from next Friday. In this area, Muslims have been offering Friday prayers since the last decade. A designated place in sector 29 had proper arrangements in place for people to offer namaz.
Those who had come to offer namaz said while the situation was peaceful, more open spaces would be helpful, especially for those who work and have short lunch breaks.
The move to restrict Muslims from offering Friday prayers at certain places comes just days after Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that Muslims should offer Friday prayers in their homes or in mosques.
On Thursday, senior police officials had called maulvis for a meeting to tell them about the move to designated spots. Last week, according to sources privy to the whole situation, the government had asked for a list of places in and around Gurugram where namaz was held. From that list of over 100 places, the government zeroed in on 37 places.
Over the last few weeks, there were reports of groups, most of them allegedly Hindu right-wing activists, disrupting Friday namaaz in various parts of Gurugram. Six people were also arrested in connection to one such case.
(Names of people have been withheld to protect their identities)