Prayers began peacefully at Bhojshala here this morning on ‘Basant Panchami’, even as a right wing organisation performed the puja outside the monument after they allegedly found some security men wearing shoes at the site, where Muslims too offer namaz.
“We went inside Bhojshala to offer puja, but when we saw security personnel wearing shoes, we decided to leave the place and come outside. We have started the puja opposite to Bhojshala,” Dharm Jagran Manch’s district head Gopal Sharma told PTI.
Meanwhile, District Collector S Shukla said that 350 devotees have offered prayers at the temple inside Bhojshala.
The monument has been virtually turned into a fortress with a huge police deployment to avoid any untoward incident.
BUS leader Ashok Jain claimed the authorities are making government officials offer puja inside the Bhojshala to show that all was normal. The real devotees (faithful) in a huge number were offering puja outside, he said.
There was tension in the town for past few days ahead of the ‘Basant Panchami’ after Bhoj Utsav Samiti (BUS), an umbrella body of some right wing organisations, leader Vijay Singh Rathore demanded that Hindus be allowed “dawn-to-dusk” access to perform puja at Bhojshala, despite an order issued by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) last month.
On the other hand, the Muslims’ Shahar (city) Qazi also said yesterday that his community should be allowed to offer Friday namaz at Bhojshala.
The ASI order stated that on Basant Panchami, Hindus will perform puja at Bhojshala from sunrise to 12 noon and from 3.30 PM to sunset, while Muslims will offer namaz between 1 PM and 3 PM.
Hindus consider Bhojshala as temple of Goddess Wagdevi (Saraswati), whereas Muslims treat it as Kamal Moula mosque.
In the normal course, Hindus are allowed to perform puja on Tuesdays, while Muslims offer namaz on Fridays. The structure is open to all on rest of the days.
But the row erupted with Basant Panchami and Friday namaz overlapping today, as both sides refused to give up their access to the 11th century monument, which many dub as “mini-Ayodhya”.
A similar crisis had erupted at the Bhojshala in 2003, 2006 and 2013, when Basant Panchami and Friday namaz coincided.