Haryana government minister and BJP leader Anil Vij has defended his chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar's remarks that Namaz should be read only in Mosques and Idgahs and not in public places, saying that it is okay to do so occasionally but not do it with an eye on 'grabbing land'.
Khattar had made his statement upon being asked about disruptions of Friday prayers in Gurugram. Right-wing groups have said that they won't allow Namaz to be offered in open places and took out processions allegedly chanting religious slogans while breaking up prayer congregations in certain areas.
Speaking to reporters, Vij said:
"Occasionally if someone has to read it (Namaz) then there's freedom of religion. But if it's done with the intention of grabbing land, it is wrong. Permission for that cannot be given." He added that Khattar's statement had been taken in a different perspective.
Earlier, Khattar had said:
"Maintaining Law and Order is our duty and we will do it. We have made sure there is no disturbance or stress. We have alerted all our authorities. Now this issue is such that the instances of reading namaz out in the open have increased. Now what we have to say about this is that the places that are meant for Namaz are where Namaz has to be read. Namaz should be read in Mosques. And if the place falls short, then one can read it in their personal spaces. This is not something that you display in public spaces. Because in public spaces, when there is no problem, then all is fine, but then if there is some sort of problem then the safety is not ensured. We have decided to take care and explain to them that there is a right place to read Namaz and not to do so in public spaces."
Khattar's remarks have been criticised, with JD(U)'s Pawan Varma citing Article 25 of the Constitution of India that guarantees freedom to practice one's religion, saying that if there's a problem it should be resolved under the law.
Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh who said:
"Who is Haryana chief minister to give such a statement? Nobody can order it."
Minority Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also gave his view, saying:
"It's not good to make Namaz a controversial issue. Yes, it is not legal to do it at an unauthorised place, so I don't think that there is any need to make a controversy out of this."
Yaser Jilani of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch said:
"This issue is too small for a CM, his administration could have handled it. It's up to the people too to not enter the land where it is marked that the land belongs to the government."