Stone-pelting, police lathi-charge at Bhojshala

Police cane-charged and lobbed teargas shells to evict stone-pelting protesters from a protected monument.

Updated: Feb 15, 2013, 21:49 PM IST

Dhar: Police cane-charged and lobbed teargas shells to evict stone-pelting protesters from a protected monument, which houses a temple and a mosque, and allowed minority community members to offer prayers at the disputed site here on Friday.

A few policemen were injured and some media vehicles damaged in stone-pelting, official sources said.

Bhojshala complex, which is home to a Saraswati temple and Kamal Maula Mosque, is protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and visited by both Hindus and Muslims on different days. The ownership of the complex has long been a matter of dispute between the two communities.

The ASI had allowed Hindus to perform Puja on February 15 in Bhojshala the whole day except between 12 pm and 3.30 pm, when Muslims were permitted to offer prayers there.

A large number of saffron workers were protesting against the ASI decision to permit minority community to offer prayers at the site today, when Basant Panchami festival has coincided with Friday prayers.

The festival began on a tense note in the town with Bhoj Utsav Samiti initially refusing to go inside Bhojshala, citing heavy police presence in the complex.

The Samiti, which organises the festival, relented and a few members of the committee went inside Bhojshala to keep a portrait of Waghdevi (Goddess Saraswati) and perform puja. They were joined by some locals.

Meanwhile, the saffron workers continued with protest. Trouble began at around noon when police asked the majority community members to vacate the premises, but they refused. Unidentified persons indulged in stone-pelting causing injuries to policemen and damaging a few media vehicles.

Police cane-charged the protesters and lobbed teargas shells to disperse them and to control the situation.

Inspector General (IG) Anuradha Shankar told reporters that a total of 16 people offered namaz in the complex at the designated time. She described the incident at the site as "minor" and said situation was quickly brought under control.

Under an arrangement, every Tuesday Hindus offer prayers at Bhojshala, while Muslims offer Namaz every Friday. On Basant Panchami, Hindus are allowed to perform puja at the monument the whole day. This year Basant Panchami coincided with Friday prayers.