The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minorities cry foul on Dhar offer

Bhopal, Feb. 28: The Bhojshala dispute that led to bloody clashes and the death of three persons in Dhar district is far from being resolved.

The Centre’s formula to sort out the vexed 11th century temple-mosque dispute has run into rough weather following local Muslims’ move to boycott an all-party meet called to implement a seven-point formula granting both communities right to worship at the site.

Muslims are resentful of Union culture minister Jagmohan’s amendment to the recommendations forwarded by the Digvijay Singh government to the Centre. In the revised suggestions, the Hindus are permitted access for a full day instead of two hours on Tuesday and more important, the majority community is permitted to carry flower, rice, kumkum and other puja materials that were prohibited by the Digvijay regime.

Several prominent Muslims in Dhar like Mujeeb Qureshi, Qazi Iftekar Thekedar and Nisar Ahmad feel if the majority community is permitted to carry puja materials, the Muslims would lose their right to offer namaz.

The permission to carry puja materials would eventually pave the way for the installation of an idol of Saraswati, they said.

Minority leaders said that since 1934, the majority community was not permitted to perform puja in Bhojshala as there was no deity.

Some of them threatened to move court in case they did not get “justice” from the Archaeological Survey of India, which looks after the monument.

The Hindu Jagran Manch, an umbrella organisation of the saffron brigade that is spearheading the agitation, countered the argument. The Bhojshala was forcibly converted into a mosque during the rule of Alauddin Khalji in the 14th century, the Manch said.

It had earlier opposed the idea of a negotiated settlement but changed track to welcome Jagmohan’s verdict.

Manch convener Radheshyam Yadav “advised” Muslims to abandon offering namaz at Bhojshala and give up the land voluntarily to the majority community as part of a “goodwill gesture”.

Dhar collector Sanjay Dube said: “The local Muslims have some reservations and I have asked them to give them in writing. Their points of view would be forwarded to the state government, which would inform the Centre.” Dube said the Muslims offered namaz at Bhojshala today and the day passed off peacefully.

The chief minister, however, said the Centre and the ASI were yet to issue categorical orders on Bhojshala. “These are mere suggestions and I am awaiting a clear order from them,” Digvijay said. The chief minister did not appear pleased with the Centre’s suggestions. It rejected the state’s request for paramilitary forces to man the monument.

Jagmohan yesterday asserted that law and order was the state’s responsibility while rejecting Digvijay’s suggestion that paramilitary forces should look after the security of the monument.

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