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Communalism

'No Plans to Allow Namaz': Gurdwara Chief Does U-Turn as Muslim Groups Cite Rightwing Pressure

Sherdil Singh Sidhu, who heads the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha said that he had been misquoted by media, a day after he had offered five gurdwaras in Gurugram for namaz.

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New Delhi: A day after it was reported that the Sikh community in Gurgaon had offered space to Muslims in gurdwaras so that they can offer namaz amidst pitched rightwing opposition in certain areas, Indian Express has reported that Muslims chose not to do so out of consideration for the fact that the gurdwara had allegedly come under pressure from rightwing groups.

Ahead of the prayers on Friday, November 19, Sherdil Singh Sidhu, who heads the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Gurugram’s Sabzi Mandi had said that five gurdwaras at Sadar Bazar, Sector 39, Sector 46, Model Town and Jacobpura had been offered to members of the Muslim community for namaz.

Members of the Jamiat Ulama met with the committee and accepted the offer, which they called “gracious.” Preparations were made for Muslims to offer prayers at the gurdwaras in Sector 39 and Sadar Bazar on Friday.

However, shortly after this announcement, local rightwing groups have begun amping up pressure on the gurdwara.

The Hindu reported that one Ravi Ranjan, who is chairman of the local Jhatka Certification Authority, held a meeting with members of the Shri Guru Singh Sabha, headed by Sidhu, on its namaz offer.

“I held a meeting with the committee members and made it clear that the gurdwara premises could not be used for ‘non-Sikh’ religious activities,” Ranjan told Hindu.

Sidhu, in a U-turn, also told the newspaper that he had been misquoted by media and that “he had no plans as of now to allow namaz inside the gurdwara.”

Since yesterday was Gurpurab, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev – a holy day for Sikhs – Muslim groups decided to avoid possible security issues at the gurdwaras and instead offered prayers at the shop of a Hindu businessman who had offered them the space.

The Express report quotes former Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Adeeb and Altaf Ahmad of the Gurgaon Muslim Council as having said that rightwing pressure led Muslims to not offer prayers at the gurdwaras.

“We told them we won’t inconvenience them. So, we went to thank them after the namaz,” Adeeb said.

At Sector 37, 15-20 people additionally disrupted namaz at a playground, claiming that they wanted to play cricket at the site. Police at the spot took them to Sector 10 police station and held a discussion with them, according to reports.

Supporters and members of Hindutva groups have been protesting at namaz spots across Gurugram each Friday for over two months now.

Initially promising to uphold the rights of those offering namaz at Gurugram’s 37 designated sites, police arrested nearly 30 rightwing Hindutva protesters in late October. However, within days, the Gurugram administration withdrew permission for namaz to be offered at eight of the 37 designated sites.

On November 5, a Govardhan Puja was organised by a Hindutva organisation called the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, at a namaz site on a Friday. BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who had threatened violence against anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters ahead of the Delhi riots of 2020, was present at the event, which saw open calls for violence against ‘traitors of Hindus’.