Dhar (Madhya Pradesh), November 6
Malwa’s scholar king Raja Bhoj is dominating the poll narrative in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar, where communal tensions are simmering over the ownership of a site that houses an 11th century monument, Bhojshala, built by the Parmar dynasty king, and a mosque dedicated to Muslim seer Kamal Maula.
Bone of contention
Hindus stake claim to full ownership of a site that houses both Bhojshala, an 11th century structure built by the Parmar king, and a mosque.
Hindu outfits here have moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court for full ownership of the disputed site, which they claim was a temple of Vagdevi (Goddess Saraswati), with the mosque coming up later.
The problem has exacerbated in recent years due to Basant Panchami falling on Friday and timings of the rituals of both communities clashing. Pramod Kumar, Dhar resident
The Archaeological Survey of India protects the monument, which is currently opened for worship to people of both faiths.
Hindus are allowed to offer prayers on Tuesdays and Muslims on Fridays.
“The problem has exacerbated in recent years due to Basant Panchami falling on Friday and timings of the rituals of both communities clashing,” says Pramod Kumar, a resident of Dhar, where sitting BJP MLA Neena Verma is contesting against Congress’ Prabha Gautam whom she had defeated in 2018. Neena is the mother-in-law of Delhi Lok Sabha MP Pavesh Sahib Verma.
Several voters of the segment voice anguish over the district administration recently removing an idol of Vagdevi which appeared at the mosque site.
“The idol appeared inside the monument in September and was promptly removed to prevent escalation of communal violence,” Dhar district authorities told The Tribune today, adding even an FIR was registered against unknown persons for trying to promote enmity between communities.
The situation was controlled but tensions linger.
“Why should we not get full prayer rights at our temple?” asks Rambha Parmar, who lives just 200 metres from the disputed site, with Gopal Sharma, a member of the Bhojshala Sangharsh Samiti, putting question marks on the district administration’s act of removing the deity.
“These are matters of faith and the administration should be cautious,” Sharma said, with the state government yet to respond to the high court notice in the matter of Hindu petitioners seeking ownership of the site.
Amid the status quo, BJP campaigners here are quietly supporting the side that believes a mosque came up on the site of a temple.
Local BJP leader Ashok Jain continues to question the removal of the idol from the site. Meanwhile, residents admit to latent angst over the issue even as Waqar Siddiqui, sheher qazi (head of city’s Muslims), expresses concerns at the development.
“Bhojshala is Dhar’s Ram Mandir,” says Monish Gaekwad, pointing to movements across India to reclaim Hindu places of worship, including the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi which petitioners claim was part of the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Elders of Dhar say the Bhojshala issue is not new and was first raised by BJP’s Hindutva icon Uma Bharti in 2003 to dislodge the Congress government headed by Digvijaya Singh. “Dhar has been the laboratory of Hindutva in Madhya Pradesh. It has witnessed communal tensions off and on, but the Bhojshala issue has gained much more traction today than ever because of the Hindu side moving the court for ownership of what it believes is a temple,” says Mansukh Lal, whose ancestors lived in Dhar.
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