Recently, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar commented that, “It is our duty to maintain law and order. There has been an increase in offering namaz in the open. Namaz should be read in Mosques or Idgahs rather than public spaces.” In the time of appeasement politics, this has come as a very bold statement. Most of the people seem to agree with CM Khattar on the account of disruption of traffic and restriction of movement due to large gathering of devotees on public spaces during namaz.
It is our duty to maintain law & order. There has been an increase in offering namaz in open. Namaz should be read in Mosques or Idgahs rather than public spaces: Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar on increase in the number of incidents of disrupting namaz in Gurugram pic.twitter.com/82ZQw6M2WN
— ANI (@ANI) May 6, 2018
It all started when few local citizens tried to disrupt Friday prayers in Gurgaon in the last two weeks to allegedly prevent the grab of vacant public land. Over the last two weeks, there were disruptions to namaz at Wazirabad, the Atul Kataria Chowk, the Cyber Park, Bakhtawar Chowk and at the South City, according to the police. Citizens alleged in a letter addressed to Chief Minister that Friday prayers in Sector 53 were being used as a pretext to occupy land illegally. They further alleged that worshippers chant anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans at the spot.
There is a growing practice of namaz on public spaces all over the world and India is no exception. France has already banned offering namaz on streets. Namaz, as pointed out by CM Khattar, can be read in Mosque or Idgahs. But nowadays, it is performed in open spaces to show the strength and more importantly, to lay claim to land over a period of time. It has happened in the past as well. Idgah Maidan case is a very famous example of this tactic. In this case, Muslim community began offering namaz in the ground belonging to Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) and later claimed right over it because according to the Islamic law the place once they pray belongs to God and it is no more a public property. The issue led to several communal clashes. After a long legal battle, SC gave the decision in HDMC’s favour.
Last year also some Muslims were offering namaz in the gangway at the Mumbai International Airport despite having prayer room in the Airport. Several incidents of waving of ISIS flags, stone pelting, and pro-Pakistan slogans have been reported in Kashmir after Friday prayers.
Religion being an individual thing should remain confined within the four walls. When religion disrupts normal life, it becomes a major nuisance. All religious activities must be confined to designated places. This Gurugram case of land encroachment under the pretext of namaz is still in its initial stages. This problem needs to be solved quickly before it exacerbates and becomes another case like Hubli Idgah Maidan. This namaz offering in public spaces is a misuse of public space and public property. Other state government should take a leaf from CM Khattar’s book and work towards ensuring that prayers are offered in designated areas only. Periodic blockage of traffic and vehicular movements due to prayers on public spaces should be discouraged.