The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Goddess twist to Bhojshala row

Bhopal, June 4: The Bhojshala row took another twist with chief minister Digvijay Singh quoting British high commissioner Sir Rob Young as saying there is no Saraswati idol in any London museum.

Reacting to Union minister of state for tourism and culture Bhavnabehn Chikalia’s statement in Dhar that Bhojshala was a Hindu temple and the Centre would help bring back the idol from London, Digvijay said: “As per my correspondence with the high commissioner, the idol kept in London is of Jain goddess Ambika and not of Saraswati, which some claim was earlier at Bhojshala.”

In another development, the local administration in Dhar district, where Bhojshala is located, has sought a report on alleged violation of law by Chikalia and others in order to frame a case against them.

The minister and other BJP workers allegedly violated the Archaeological Survey of India Act by allowing bhajans and slogan-shouting inside the structure, which Muslims regard as the Kamal Maula Masjid.

Chikalia and the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Uma Bharti, yesterday demanded the Saraswati idol be brought from London to be installed at Bhojshala.

Uma’s remark that Bhojshala was a temple sparked a sharp reaction from the Muslim community.

State minorities commission chief Ibrahim Qureshi said local Muslims would move court. “Events in Bhojshala yesterday have left us no other option but to knock on the judiciary’s door,” he said.

Dhar district Congress chief Mujeeb Qureshi urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to remove Chikalia from the council of ministers for making “irresponsible and baseless statements”.

Objecting to the BJP’s violation of ASI rules, Digvijay alleged that the party was “plotting to engineer riots” in Madhya Pradesh.

“The whole purpose of raking up the Bhojshala issue again and again is to vitiate communal peace. Other than Hindutva, the BJP has no other agenda,” the chief minister said.

The Bhojshala dispute is often dubbed as Madhya Pradesh’s Ayodhya. Hindus believe the 11th century monument is a temple-cum-seat of learning while Muslims regard it as a mosque.

The row over Bhojshala has seen several altercations, with three people dying in communal clashes this February.

The monument is under ASI supervision. Muslims are permitted to pray every Friday at the monument between 1 and 3 pm, while Hindus are allowed darshan on Tuesday.

On the remaining days, Bhojshala is open to the general public with an entrance fee of Re 1.

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