For the fifth week in a row, Friday prayers by the Muslim community in Gurugram were interrupted by protesters objecting to prayers being offered in open spaces.
While the prayers were being disrupted in Sector 47 for the last four weeks, several demonstrated against prayers being held at a site in Sector 12 on Friday, 22 October, by locals and members of several right wing groups including Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Durga Vahini.
A 19-second video accessed by The Quint shows protesters sloganeering, behind a row of police personnel, as members of the Muslim community pray.
Speaking to The Quint, many who were praying at the site alleged that slogans of Jai Shri Ram were also raised. However, the protesters claim that the land in Sector 12 is a private property and the owner was a part of the protests as well.
'Sector Land a Private Property, Not a Designated Praying Site'
Speaking to The Quint, Advocate Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, who was at the forefront of the protests held in Sector 12 on Friday, said that the demonstrations were not against the Muslim community. He also claimed that the land on which prayers are offered in Sector 12 is a private property.
"The protests were held by locals and the owner of the land Satish Bhardwaj against prayers being offered in an open space without permission. There were members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, and Durga Vahini also present there," he said.
"Be it namaz or pooja, prayers should be offered in a temple or a mosque and if that's not available, people should pray in their houses. This is not an opposition to a particular community, it's about upholding laws," he said.
Bhardwaj said that they have registered a written complaint in the matter with the police and have demanded a resolution of the matter at the earliest, undersigned by him, owner of the land Satish Bhardwaj, members of the right wing groups and local residents.
Bhardwaj also claimed that the site is not one of the designated places by the administration for the Muslim community to offer prayers.
Speaking to the police and the media earlier at the protest site, Bhardwaj had said: "The list (of designated sites for Friday prayers) was decided in 2012 with stakeholders from both communities being present. And if this site (Sector 12) was designated at that time, that needs to be investigated as well.
He also said that there is fear among many people that Rohinga Muslims and refugees from Bangladesh might try to infiltrate these praying groups and create a law and order situation in the city.
'The Constitution Gives Us the Right'
Altaf Ahmad, a member of the Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch (GNEM) who prays every Friday at the Sector 47 locality said that there's yet to be more clarity on whether the namaz in Sector 12 was being offered on a private property, and if it was, the reasons behind it are yet to be ascertained.
Altaf, however, condemned the disruption and the sloganeering by the protesters and right-wing groups.
"The Friday prayers have to be offered in congregation. The problem with Gurugram is, there are not enough designated praying sites for Muslims unlike places like Mumbai or Delhi. You can't make enough such spaces and expect us to not pray. The Constitution gives us the right to follow our religion," he said.
Protests in Sector 47
For nearly four weeks, residents of Sector 47 have been protesting against the offering of namaz in the locality, citing 'security' issues.
On 15 October, local residents also sang bhajans at the site in Sector 47, but were restrained by the police from moving further.
The protesters also raised slogans against the government for failing to stop namaz in public spaces.
Residents of Sector 47 and members of the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) decided to halt their protest for two weeks on Monday, 18 October, after meeting the deputy commissioner who assured of a possible solution, following which prayers were held without interruption on 22 October.