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Amid tension at Bhojshala, Hindu group shuns puja, Muslims escorted for 'Namaz'
Friday February 12, 2016 7:36 PM, IANS

Dhar (Madhya Pradesh):
Amid tension and heavy security in the Bhojshala here, a Hindu group on Friday shunned the site for conducting the special Basant Panchami puja while the administration escorted a small group of Muslims into the place for a token namaz.

Bhoj Utsav Samiti, supported by Hindu Jagran Manch, said it was shunning the site because the administration had turned it into a garrison by deploying hundreds of security personnel and stationed plainclothesmen inside the site where puja was to be conducted.

"We find people inside Bhojshala who have nothing to do with Sarawati puja. So, we will conduct our puja outside," Ashok Jain of the Bhoj Utsav Samiti said in the morning as he led the Hindu devotees outside the site.

The Hindus come to Bhojshala for puja, not to engage in war, he said.

The Samiti conducted the special Basant Panchami puja of goddess Saraswati outside the Bhojshala site, Dhar district's Public Relations Officer Shravan Singh told IANS.

He said about 25 members of the Muslim community were taken inside Bhojshala through a back door and upstairs on the terrace for namaz -- a measure confirmed by Health Minister Narottam Mishra who is in charge of the district.

After the puja, the Hindu groups took out a procession in which a large number of people took part. Later, a Hindu leader, Shankaracharya Narendranand Giri, sat on a dharna to protest against the attitude of the administration.

Bhojshala is a historical site in Dhar district of what was believed to be a Saraswati shrine built by Raja Bhoj, who ruled between circa 1000 and 1055, and the Kamal Maula mosque.

According to an arrangement put in place by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which maintains the site, Hindus are allowed to worship at Bhojshala on Tuesdays as well as on Basant Panchami, while the Muslims can offer prayers there every Friday.

Controversy arises when Basant Panchami falls on a Friday - which was the case in 2003, 2006 and 2013.

This year the Bhoj Utsav Samiti demanded that the Hindus be allowed to use the site for the whole day as Basant Panchami was a special day of reverence for goddess Saraswati.

The administration barricaded Bhojshala and deployed about 6,000 police and security personnel to prevent any communal flareup.

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