DHAR - A new controversy is brewing in India over celebrations of a Hindu festival at an ancient mosque in the central city of Dhar, which coincides with the weekly Friday prayers on February 15.
Our effort is to find an amicable solution to the problem, Dhar Collector CB Singh told OnIslam.net.
We have deployed security at the place and hope that Friday will pass off peacefully without any problem.
Hindus will be celebrating the day of Vasant Panchmi, a festival devoted to Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of knowledge and arts, on Friday, February 15.
India Muslims Save Sacred Hindu River
India Muslims Help Building Hindu Temple
The festival will be held at the Kamal Maula Mosque, which Hindus consider as a temple.
Hindu groups have called for banning Muslims from the place at the time in order to celebrate their festival.
Muslims should not be allowed to offer namaz (prayers) on Friday, Ashok Jain, President of the Hindu Jagran Manch group, told OnIslam.net.
It is a temple and it should be handed over to Hindus.
The Kamal Maula Mosque was built in the 11th century by King Bhoj, the most celebrated ruler of the Paramara dynasty in central India.
Hindus believe the place was an ancient seat of learning and belongs to them.
The place, which is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), has been a source of controversy between Hindus and Muslims in the past.
Under a previous agreement between the two sides, Muslims are allowed to pray at the site on Fridays from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Hindus are free to offer prayers at the place on Tuesdays and on the day of Vasant Panchmi.
A similar situation occurred in 2006.
At the time, the government converted the area into a fortress by deploying large police forces and allocated separate time to Hindus and Muslims to offer prayers.
But Muslims insist on their right to perform their weekly prayers at the mosque.
There was an agreement between Hindus and Muslims on April 23, 1995 for the place, but later Hindus violated the agreement, Mujeeb Qureshi, former district president of the Congress Party, told OnIslam.net.
Despite the controversy, some Muslims believe that a solution will be reached soon.
Both Muslims and Hindus in Dhar are peace-loving people. They don't want any dispute, said senior advocate Nisar Mohammed.
But people, who have come from outside, want to take political mileage through this controversy.
ASI has proposed a solution to resolve the dispute.
Under the proposal, Hindu devotees will be permitted to the site to offer puja (prayers) on the day of Vasant Panchmi on February 14 and 15 from morning till evening.
Muslims will be allowed to perform prayers at the mosque from 12 noon to 3.30 p.m.
Hindus can take with them a flower or two and a few grains of rice to offer puja at the site.
But the proposal is not accepted by the Hindus.
We are ready to face any situation, said Jain, of the Jagran Manch group.
We want to perform puja for the whole day on Feb 15. Vasant Panchmi is on Feb 15 and not on Feb 14.
It is up to the administration to decide about Muslims. We are not concerned about them.Muslims account for 160 million in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net