Stirring another controversy along religious lines, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked for a ban on offering namaz in open public places in Noida this week, drawing flak from the opposition, minority leaders, and anti-Hindutva critics alike. To ensure Muslims in Noida don’t offer namaz in public spaces, including parks, the BJP leader with a history of questionable moves ordained the UP police to notify 23 private firms in Sectors 57, 58, 59 and 60 of Noida’s industrial hub.
Here’s what happened
Friday prayers during work hours have to be held in mosques,
Station House Officer (SHO) Pankaj Rai said the move resulted from several complaints regarding a large number of people congregating to offer namaz in the afternoon especially on Fridays. The notices came right after the District Magistrate denied them permission to offer namaaz at the Authority park earlier this month.
“We reaffirm that the 2009 Supreme Court order will be implemented in letter and spirit and request to everyone that if any such activity or a new activity has to be done in a public place, then first take permission from the administration, otherwise it would be deemed illegal,” DM Brajesh Narayan Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.
What the notice says
“It is often seen that Muslim employees of your companies gather in large number in the park despite being advised against doing so and despite the city magistrate denying their request for permission to use it for offering namaaz. Therefore, it is expected of you to inform your Muslim employees at your level and if they still assemble at the park, then it would be considered that you have not informed them and held as the responsibility of the individual company,” the notices said, further citing disturbance of peace and harmony in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Rai told Indian Express, “Earlier only around 10-15 people assembled in the parks to offer Friday prayers and there were no complaints regarding that. However, over the last few weeks, the numbers have risen significantly. Over the last couple of weeks, around 500-600 people assembled in the afternoon to offer Namaz and we got several complaints regarding such assembly of people in the public park.”
Companies will be responsible
“We want to inform you that there is no permission from the administration to conduct any kind of religious activity including Namaz offered on Friday in the Authority park in Sector 58,” the police notices said. Companies and offices in the area will face action if Muslim employees are to be found violating the directive by offering namaz in public view in the local park, the circular added, noting the recent increase in the number of people who occupied the park on Friday afternoons to offer namaz.
Establishments which were served the notice have reportedly sought a meeting with senior Noida police officers for clarification on the matter, particularly on this clause that threatens to hold them liable.
Fallout and reaction
Without a mosque within a 5-kilometre radius, Muslim employees of Noida have been bereft of their only place of worship in one fell swoop.
Many including AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi questioned BJP’s continuum of polarising politics and hypocrisy when it comes to the state’s attitude towards Shiva devotees, also known as
UP Cops literally showered petals for Kanwariyas, but namaz once a week can mean “disrupting peace & harmony”. This is telling Muslims: aap kuch bhi karlo, ghalti to aapki hi hogi.
Also, by law, how does one hold an MNC liable for what their employees do in individual capacity? https://t.co/b90Jw5ZMHY— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) December 25, 2018
Identifying the move as another Hindu appeasement strategy by the controversial state BJP unit, the ban on namaz has triggered much concern in the industrial hub,
“I don’t want to speak much about it but I will just say that Yogi Adityanath has created an unsettled situation in Uttar Pradesh ever since he became the chief minister,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal opined.
Furthermore, there is speculation about whether the ambit of the notices would extend to other areas and eventually cover the rest of the National Capital Region township.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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