Amid tension in Dhar Bhojshala over puja and Friday namaz offerings on Basant Panchami festival today, Muslims were allowed to offer prayers at the disputed site where police cane-charged and lobbed teargas shells to evict stone-pelting protesters.
A few policemen were injured and some media vehicles damaged in stone-pelting, official sources said, as the district administration deployed a large contingent of policemen to maintain peace and harmony.
Bhojshala complex, which is home to a Saraswati temple and Kamal Maula Mosque, is a protected monument under 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 in Bhojshala the whole day today except between 12 pm and 3.30 pm, when Muslims were permitted to offer prayers there.
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 leading to a tense situation.
A large number of saffron workers were protesting against the ASI decision to permit minority community to offer prayers at the site on a day when the Hindu festival is celebrated.
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 defuse the situation.
Inspector General 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.