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Ground waterlogged, cops keep an eye; only few turn up for namaz at Noida park

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: December 28, 2018  | 20:13 IST

(Eds: Adds quotes by police, locals) Noida (UP), Dec 28 (PTI) Days after authorities declared a Noida park prohibited for "unauthorised" religious gatherings, only a dozen people turned up there for the Friday 'namaaz' and found parts of the ground waterlogged and police keeping a vigil. Two weeks ago, Noida police issued orders stating that Friday prayers cannot be held at the government plot as there was no requisite permission. They cited a 2009 Supreme Court order and said there is a clear ban on unauthorised use of public places for religious activities. The local authorities had watered the park, which served as a venue for collective Friday namaaz for the past a few years and where hundreds used to turn up every week. Those who came for namaaz but could not offer prayers expressed disappointment, claiming it was only during the previous and this Friday that water was released into the park. A Noida Authority official said parks are watered by maintenance contractors and they decide when to do it. "The maintenance of the parks is looked after by contractors. They decide when to water it, trim the grass or clean it," the official, who did not wish to be named, told PTI. Scores of personnel, including from Sector 58 and nearby police stations and the Provincial Armed Constabulary, were deployed in and around the park. A fire tender was also stationed outside it. Adil Rashid, one of the organisers of the Friday prayers at the park since 2013, Thursday urged Muslims not to go to the park, saying the administration has denied permission for religious gatherings there. Cleric Noman Akhtar, who had led the prayers for several years, also did not turn up. Mohd Mushtaq Khan, who works at a private company in the adjoining Sector 59 of the city and turned up for the namaaz, said he had been coming to the park for over five years now. "There is no other space where we can go. I come at 1.30pm and the namaaz is offered by 2pm." "It's only today and the last Friday when the park was watered. Otherwise, there would be arrangement of water in a corner of the park for 'wajoo'," the 33-year-old said. He said since namaaz prayers could not be organised at the park, they could not enter it. Meraj Ahmed, who also came to offer namaaz, said going to far off places looking for a mosque was not possible during the half-hour lunch break. He said he gets one-hour breaks from his company on Fridays for the prayers, but even that now "does not solve my problem". "There is no provision by companies also, so we used to come here. I don't know what will we do next Friday," Ahmed, 27, said. A senior police official said they did not receive any reports of conflict on Friday. "We had told them that a proper channel has to be followed, that is get permission from the administration and then we don't have any problem. They agreed," Circle Officer, Noida City 2nd, Rajeev Kumar said. Shadab Ansari, 28, said the namaaz on Jumma (Friday) is considered significant than other days and it is also believed the more people join you, the better it is and an open space is preferred. "However, for people like us in the corporate world it is not easy to find space for prayers. Those who go to open spaces don't do it just for the sake of it, it is because the mosques are far and time restrictions are to be followed," the software engineer said. He said the namaaz hardly takes 20 minutes and on fears of communal violence on such issues, "I tell you the Friday prayers are the most peaceful. There have hardly been any incident during Friday prayers". Noting that some people claim mosques could be built in public parks if namaaz is allowed, he said construction on "illegally occupied land" is considered bad in Islam. Ansari, who works in a multinational firm in Noida, said there are several companies, like his, where employees get ample space for prayers. Gurinder Pal Singh said offering prayers in public spaces might lead to problems and the companies or establishments can help it. "My company and a couple of others nearby have provided a separate area for Muslims to offer prayers," Singh, 27, said. A software engineer, Singh said his colleagues use a designated space within the building to offer prayers everyday and no one has objected to it. "If they go out and use public space, it may lead to encroachment and others may follow suit. So, it is also for the companies to ensure facilities for their employees," he said. Hindu Yuva Vahini district president Chainpal Bhati said the government's intention is not to hurt anybody's religious sentiments. "The order to not use unauthorised public spaces for prayers is good and should be complied with. Nobody would object to namaaz being offered in mosques, or katha being held in temples," he said. Federation of Noida Resident Welfare Associations president N P Singh said any activity on public land should be done with official permission only. PTI KIS TIR ABH ABH

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