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Religion in public spaces is India’s reality, Khattar must refrain from biased approaches

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Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is fishing in troubled waters with his statement that Friday namaz should be read in mosques, eidgahs or private places and not in public spaces. When his comments stirred a controversy, Khattar backtracked and asked those opposing namaz in public to approach the district administration and police. For the past few Fridays, Hindu right-wing groups in Gurugram have been harassing Muslims offering namaz in public and disrupting their prayers.

Read: Namaz should be in mosques, not in public places, Haryana CM Khattar says

An attempt to foment communal tensions cannot be ruled out and Khattar must be tough on Hindutva groups looking to stir up communal trouble. Having burnt his fingers badly in two instances of mob violence – during the Jat reservation agitation and the Panchkula violence after Ram Rahim’s conviction – Khattar cannot afford another conflagration. If Muslims are forbidden from saying their prayers in public merely on the ground of disturbance to others, tomorrow a demand could arise to stop all religious processions on roads for the same reason. The state is in no position to accept such demands.

Haryana chief minister ML Khattar

At best it can facilitate the religious practices of all sects in a manner that causes minimal inconvenience to others. Clearly, there are not enough mosques or eigdahs to accommodate all Muslims in many places forcing them to say Friday namaz in public. This is a reality and that is why the practice took shape. Equal respect to all religions is a constitutional precept that has worked very well for India these past 70 years. Khattar must focus on upholding law and order and crack down hard on attempts to ignite communal tensions.

Updated: May 7, 2018 — 6:00 am

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