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Gurgaon ‘Namaz’ Row: ‘My Protest Is Against Muslim Prayers On Government Land, Not ‘Namaz’ As Such’: Hindu Leader Kulbhushan Bhardwaj

Syed Khalique Ahmed

GURGAON (HARYANA)—Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, an advocate, is running a sustained campaign under the banner of the Sanyukta Hindu Sangharsh Samiti against Muslims offering Friday congregational prayers in open government lands and parks in this global city.

In a lengthy and exclusive interview with India Tomorrow, he discussed various issues about Friday prayers by Muslims whose population has increased to about half a million in this city due to migration from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. 

This has resulted in problems for the Muslims, particularly the migrant population, in offering obligatory Friday congregational prayers, or ‘namaz’ in local common parlance and ‘salat’ in the Arabic language.

Here are excerpts of the interview: 

Question: Why do you oppose ‘namaz’ in open government land? The number of Friday prayer sites has come down from 116 in 2018 to 29 after you started the protest? 

Answer: It is wrong to say that I oppose the offering of ‘namaz’. Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians as Indian citizens have the same right as Hindus in India. My group and I neither oppose Muslims nor the ‘namaz’. We are not against Islam. On the contrary, we have the utmost respect for the Muslim community. We also respect the offering of ‘namaz’ by the Muslim community.

However, what we oppose is the offering of ‘namaz’ in open government land. We oppose ‘Land Jihad’ (Bhardwaj explains it as illegal grabbing of government land) on the pretext of offering ‘namaz’. You pray for a few days at a place and then take over that land to build a mosque. This is our concern.

Adv Kulbhushan Bhardwaj led an RSS rally. (Source: Facebook)

Question: Do you have any example where Muslims in Gurgaon have grabbed the government land where they performed Friday ‘namaz’ for a few weeks? 

Answer: Yes. I am a victim of it. Muslims prayed on Fridays for a few weeks in Palam Vihar, near Gurgaon city. And suddenly, one day, they put up a board, claiming it is Eidgah land, and then illegally occupied it permanently. I suspect that such a thing can happen again, hence my opposition to allowing Muslims to pray on government plots.

Question: The administration has given Muslims permission for Friday prayers in government parks and other open places. Why should you have an objection to it?

Answer: I am afraid that it is not correct. Muslims were allowed to pray only in Eid, Bakrid, and on two other occasions to pray at 37 government sites owned by the local administration. And the administration permitted it after a meeting with representatives of the Hindu and Muslim communities. However, it was not written permission. It was all verbal. But Muslims interpret it as permission for Friday prayers also. So, we fear the Muslims will make claims over these plots for building their mosques.

Question: If Muslims are violating the administration’s order, the administration must take action. Why should you create the problem? 

Answer: This is a good question. Since the administration is not performing its duties, we are opposing Muslims praying in government parks. I must tell you that what Muslims are doing is wrong. India belongs to all of its citizens. Why should only Muslims use the parks for their religious prayers? Tomorrow, even Hindus and other communities can demand the gardens for weekly or bi-weekly religious gatherings? What will happen then? There will be chaos all around.

Question: Why don’t you oppose the administration that is allowing Muslims to pray? Why do you target Muslims? It results in communal tension and polarization.

Answer: We are also opposing administration simultaneously. Muslims must offer their prayers in masjids, Eidgahs, and waqf land as Hindus pray in temples, Sikhs in Gurudwaras, and Christians in their churches. Muslims should not take us as their enemies. 

Questions: Muslims say they don’t want to pray on government lands and in open places. But the state government is not allotting land for mosques. What is your comment on it?

Answer: I believe that the state government should consider favourably the demand for allotment of land for mosques if those making demands are ready to pay for it at rates fixed by the government. The government should allow it to fulfill the religious requirements of Muslims. The government should definitely consider it.

I must tell you that the Chief Minister (Manoharlal Khattar) has allotted two acres of land to each religious community, including Muslims, for religious use in Sector 72. So, Muslims can build a mosque over there.

Question: But the Muslim population is scattered all over the city. They don’t live in one area only. Very few Muslims live in areas around Sector 72. It is practically not possible for Muslims from the entire city to go to Sector 72. Moreover, one mosque is not sufficient for such a large Muslim population. Why can’t government allot more plots for Muslims in different sectors to meet the religious needs of Muslims? Your comment?

Answer: (Bhardwaj does not respond to the question. Instead, he twists the matter). Hindus prayed at their homes during lockdown due to the Covid pandemic because all religious places were locked. Why can’t Muslims also pray at home? Why are they insisting on congregational prayers? Where is this written in the Quran that you have to pray only in a congregation?

Question: Muslims, like others, also prayed at home during the pandemic. They also performed Eid and Bakrid ‘namaz’ at their homes. That was an extraordinary situation. But what we are talking about is the situation when things have become routine. Sector 72 is located far away and in one corner of the city. And Muslims live all over the city. Therefore, it is practically not possible for everybody to go to Sector 72. Moreover, one mosque in Sector 72 can’t accommodate the entire Muslim worshippers. So, what about the land for mosques in other areas? 

Answer: Yes. What you have said is a good thing. But we want Muslims to pray in their mosques only like Hindus do in their temples. (Bhardwaj avoids speaking on the crux of the issue.)

Question: Will you appeal to CM Manoharlal Khattar to allot land for mosques so that Muslims don’t pray on roads and government parks?

Answer: I thank CM to allot land in Sector 72. (Again, he avoids replying to the question). 

Question: A total of 19 mosques are under illegal possession of Hindus in Gurgaon city and nearby areas. They are Muslim religious places. But they are used by Hindu occupiers for keeping cattle or other purposes. When Muslims face a crisis due to a shortage of mosques, do you think these mosques should be returned to them?

Answer: I believe that these mosques be handed over to Muslims through negotiations. And if anyone refuses to return the mosque, the doors of the court are open. I have complete faith in the judiciary. Muslims can also fight a legal battle like the Hindus fought a prolonged legal battle for Ram Mandir. I am sure they will get the mosques though there may be some delay.

Question: If Muslims ask you to take the lead and you, on behalf of Muslims, request the occupiers of the mosques to return them to Muslim brethren, will you accept this offer?

Answer: Bilkul (Sure). You are the first Muslim journalist who has talked to me in such a cordial atmosphere and in an amicable and friendly manner. Otherwise, everybody has called me a fundamentalist Hindu; some called me a terrorist, and some gave me the title of a traitor (desk ka dushman). So, if Muslims like you come forward, I will certainly support them to resolve the issue.

Question: See, we want communal harmony and want peace with other communities. But what is the solution to the present problem? Even if the government allows the land, it will take some time to build the mosque. What about Friday prayers during this interregnum?

Answer: There are some mosques in Gurgaon where Muslims can pray. If Muslims feel they are short of spaces for prayers, they can approach the administration. Everybody has a right to pray as per their religious beliefs and tradition.

Question: There are allegations that you and your associates are threatening those Hindus and Sikhs who have offered their premises-shops and Gurudwaras-for Muslim prayers. What do you have to say about it?

Answer: I know the law and follow it too. If I threaten anybody, I know the consequences. I can be booked under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code. We certainly don’t want to threaten Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, or Christians. However, we threaten only those who don’t want to follow the law, irrespective of religion.

Question: If somebody gives his open land for Friday prayers, do you have any objection to it? 

Answer: Why should I object to it? If somebody willingly offers his land or premises for Muslim prayers, I will have no objection. This is his right.

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