Hindu activists clash with police over Bhojshala
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A massive show of strength and defiance by right-wing organisations at the disputed Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Masjid shrine on Friday forced police to fire in the air, lob teargas shells and cane Hindu devotees to allow Muslims offer a symbolic namaz at the site.
Only 16 Muslims taken by a separate route in a police vehicle could offer Friday prayers at the site as thousands of Hindus offered prayers before and after them on the occasion of Basant Panchami.
Tension had been building for past few days because Hindu groups had announced they would not honour the ASI arrangement of allowing namaz between 1 pm and 3 pm.
The police used a mixture of tact and persuasion before cracking down on Hindu activists around 1.30 pm. While police appealed for peace, a huge pandal, less than 100 metres from the shrine, became a source of trouble. Provocative speeches and repeated announcements on loudspeakers to pray the whole day saw batches of Hindu devotees charge towards the entrance.
While announcers started warning the policemen against stopping the Hindus, the administration decided to use force when a leader asked devotees to attack the police. This was followed by stone throwing. Several activists were injured in lathi-charge, leading to more violence.
"We did not invite anybody to offer namaz nor did we prevent anyone from offering it. They asked for protection and we provided it," said IG (Indore Range) Anuradha Shankar when asked whether more Muslims wanted to enter the site at the stipulated time but were advised against.
Shahr Qazi W Sadiq, however, said no Muslim offered prayers at the site, adding they did not know who the 16 people who offered namaz were.
In 2006, when Basant Panchami fell on Friday, the police could take no more than 14 Muslims on the rooftop to put into effect what the ASI had ordered.