Public spaces such as parks can’t be used for religious activities, the Noida police have declared and told multinational companies in Sector-58 to direct their employees not to offer Friday prayers in a community park. The notice also warns the companies that they will be held liable for any violation by their employees.
The companies, which have sought a meeting with senior police officers for clarification, also plan to approach the court against the order, sources told NDTV.
After the notice created a furore in Noida’s industrial hub, the police went into damage-control mode and said that the notice isn’t religion-specific.
Sources have told NDTV that a few Hindu groups had complained to the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Noida claiming that offering namaz in the open “disrupts harmony” in the area. After that 58 police stations were instructed to notify these companies. Last week, at least 12 MNCs, including HCL, got the notice that specifically said “nobody is allowed offer Friday prayers in the park”.
“It has been observed that some Muslim employees of your company go to Sector-58 park to offer namaz on Fridays. Please tell them not to do so. And if they still go to the park to offer prayers, then the companies will be held responsible for the violation,” the order said.
However, Ajay Pal, SSP Noida, said the notice doesn’t target any particular religion.
“Some people had sought permission to offer prayers in a park in Sector-58, but they weren’t allowed by the city magistrate. And still a lot of people gathered there. The notice aims to discourage all sorts of religious gatherings,” Mr Pal said.
Mualana Nauman, who has been offering namaz in Sector-58 park for the last five years, told NDTV that on December 14, the police told him and others not to offer namaz in Sector-58 park. But Nauman and his friend were arrested four days later even though they had followed the direction, he said.
“My friend Adil Rasheed and I were arrested on December 18 for disrupting peace and harmony, the police told us. We got bail on December 22,” he said.
Earlier this year, right-wing organisations had disrupted namaz at several places in Gurgaon. The activists alleged that some people were trying to grab land in a bid to merge it with a mosque.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had also said it wasn’t right to pray in open spaces. But clarified he wasn’t trying to stop anyone from offering prayers.
“If there is shortage of places for offering namaz, it should be done in personal spaces, inside homes,” Mr Khattar added.