07/05/2018 2:01 PM IST | Updated 07/05/2018 2:04 PM IST

Amid Crisis Over Friday Prayers In Gurgaon, CM Manohar Lal Khattar's Remark Deepens Divide

"What the chief minister said was absolutely unconstitutional."

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's remarks that Muslims should not use public places for their Friday prayers has added fuel to the fire of an ongoing problem where right-wing groups have disrupted prayers on several occasions in Gurgaon.

Indian Express quoted Khattar telling reporters in Chandigarh, "In our point of view, namaz should be offered at designated places. Namaz should be offered at mosques and eidgahs. And if there is a shortage of space, then namaz should be offered in a private place. This is not something which should be displayed at public places."

Khattar said this after remaining silent about the issue so far.

While he had said the government was keeping a close watch on the situation, he said if there was a lack of places to offer prayers, people must do it inside their homes.

Khattar has since then clarified his stance, saying he never talked about stopping anyone.

His comments come even as the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti -- an umbrella of right-wing groups including Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal -- said on Friday that they had stopped Friday namaz in 10 places across the city.

Khattar's comments have created a further divide between the two sides involved in the controversy.

Haji Shehzad Khan, chief of Wajid Khan Nehru Yuva Sangathan, called Khattar's comment unconstitutional.

He told HuffPost India over the phone, "It is our right as Muslims to be able to pray. What the chief minister said was absolutely unconstitutional. What he has said was to keep a particular community happy. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives us the permission to practice our religion freely."

It was Khan's organisation that had lodged an FIR against 6 people who were arrested for disrupting the Friday namaz in a park in Gurgaon's Wazirabad two weeks ago.

Khan said, "If we are not allowed to pray in public space, then the government should build us mosques, help us removed encroachment from properties owned by the Wakf Board."

"If we had the places to pray why would we pray in the heat and dust?" Khan said.

Khan said while they offered their Friday prayers on April 27 under police protection, the administration asked them to refrain from praying in certain areas of Gurgaon -- including Wazirabad in Sector 53, Sikanderpur Metro station and Atul Katarya chowk -- on May 4.

The Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti, meanwhile, is happy about Khattar's comments.

Haryana chief of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal, Chetan Sharma, told HuffPost India, "We are very thankful to the chief minister of saying this."

Sharma said that they want the administration to implement what Khattar said.

Talking about the 6 people arrested and then let out on bail, he said, "We just want the administration to removed the charges on them."

And even as the right-wing groups continue their push to stop Friday prayers in public, Khan met the police on Saturday over the crisis.

"The police have said they have to speak to other agencies about the situation, but they have promised to find us a solution," Khan said.