Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar

ML Khattar said the administration is negotiating with all parties to find an amicable solution (File)

New Delhi:

Muslims should not offer Friday prayers in open spaces in Gurgaon, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said today, withdrawing an earlier agreement – reached after clashes with members of the Hindu community in 2018 – that allowed namaz at designated places in the city.

Mr Khattar’s statement comes amid a festering row between the two communities that has seen right-wing Hindu groups repeatedly harass and intimidate Muslims looking to pray at agreed sites.

The Chief Minister said the Gurgaon administration is re-negotiating with all parties involved and would work out an “amicable solution” that doesn’t encroach on anyone’s rights.

Until then, people should offer prayers at their homes and other places of worship.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Khattar said, “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.”

“But these should not be done in the open. We won’t tolerate the custom of offering namaz in the open,” the Chief Minister maintained.

The administration will work out ways to help free areas and sites belonging to the Waqf that may have been encroached upon, he said.

Namaz offered outdoors on government-owned land has 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, Muslims peacefully praying faced shouts of “Jai Shri Ram“.

In October tensions flared as groups of people – locals claimed were affiliated to right-wing organisations – disrupted prayers in Sector 12-A. Visuals from the area showed heavy police presence as Muslims prayed; 30 protesters were detained over the incident.

After this, the Gurgaon administration on November 2 said Muslims could not pray at eight of the 37 previously agreed sites. The administration said permission had been cancelled after “objections” from locals and said permission would be revoked for other sites if similar “objections” were raised.

Among other “objections” raised are claims “Rohingya refugees” use the prayers as an excuse to commit crimes in the area.

When protests first made headlines, Mr Khattar said everyone had a right to pray but also issued a caveat, saying “those offering prayers should not block road traffic”.

Union Minister Krishan Pal Gurjar – the junior Social Justice minister, and whose constituency is in Haryana, said people must be allowed to pray if the sites had been designated for such purposes.

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