India’s ugly and intolerant side was on display once again on Friday when a chief minister of a major state openly and unashamedly stated that Muslims will not be allowed to offer prayers in open spaces, a religious obligation for almost 210 million members of the country’s main minority community.
Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said that Muslims should only pray in their homes or at designated places. His condemnable statement comes in the wake of a row with right-wing Hindu groups that intimidate Muslims for praying at already agreed sites.
Unilaterally withdrawing an earlier agreement with the minority community reached after the 2018 clashes, Khattar said that the Gurgaon administration would work out an “amicable solution that doesn’t encroach on anyone’s rights”.
“I have spoken to the police and this issue must be resolved. We don’t have problems with anyone praying at places of worship. Those places have been built for this purpose,” NDTV quoted CM Haryana as saying.
“But these should not be done in the open. We won’t tolerate the custom of offering Namaz in the open,” Khattar maintained.
According to Indian media reports, prayers offered by Muslims in the open on government-owned land have triggered vociferous protests by right-wing groups, who, last month, went so far as to spread cow dung on a prayer site.
On other occasions, the report added, Muslims peacefully praying faced shouts of “Jai Shri Ram”.
In October, the Hindus hardliners had disrupted prayers in another area of the city. Later, police reached the spot and detained 30 people over the incident.
However, after the incident, the Gurgaon administration on November 2 said that Muslims could not pray at eight of the 37 previously agreed sites. It said that permission had been cancelled after “objections” from locals and added that permission would be revoked for other sites if similar “objections” were raised.