Days after a Noida park was declared out of bounds for religious activities, only a dozen people turned up there for the Friday namaz only to find parts of the ground waterlogged even as the police keeping a vigil.
Early this month, the Noida Police had issued orders stating that Friday prayers cannot be held at the government plot as there was no requisite permission.
A fire tender was also deployed outside the park on Friday.
The local authorities had watered the park, which served as a venue for collective Friday namaz for the past few years and where hundreds used to turn up every week.
Those who came for the prayers but could not offer namaz expressed disappointment, claiming that it was only the last and this Friday that water was released into the park since it started hosting the prayers.
A Noida Authority official said watering in the parks is done by maintenance contractors and they decide when to do this. "The maintenance of the parks is looked after by contractors. They decide when to water it, trim the grass and clean it," the official, who did not wish to be named, told news agency PTI.
Scores of personnel including those from Sector 58 and nearby police stations and the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were deployed in and around the park. A fire tender was also stationed outside it.
Adil Rashid, one of the organisers of the Friday prayers at the park since 2013, on Thursday had appealed to the Muslims not to go to the park, saying permission for religious gatherings had been denied by the administration.
Cleric Noman Akhtar, who had been leading the prayers over the years, had also said he will not be joining the namaz on Friday in the park.
Mohd Mushtaq Khan, who works in a private company in adjoining Sector 59 and turned up for the namaz, said he had been coming to the park for over five years now.
"There is no other space where we can go. I come at 1.30 pm and everyone gets done offering namaz by 2 pm."
"It's only today and last Friday that the park has been watered. Otherwise, there would be arrangement of water at a corner in the park for wajoo," the 33-year-old told news agency PTI.
He said since there was no permission for holding namaz there, they could not enter the park.
Meraj Ahmed, who also came for offering namaz, said going to far off places looking for a mosque was not possible in a half-hour lunch break. He said that on Fridays he gets a one-hour break from his company considering the prayers, but even that "does not solve my problem".
"There is no provision by the companies also, so we used to come here. I don't know what will we do next Friday," Ahmed, 27, said.
A senior police official said they did not receive any reports of conflict on Friday. "We had told them that a proper channel has to be followed, that is get permission from the administration and then we don't have any problem. They agreed," Rajeev Kumar said.
Shadab Ansari, 28, said the namaz on Jumma (Friday) is considered significant than other days and it is also believed the more people join you, the better it is and an open space is preferred.
"However, for people like us in the corporate world it is not easy to find space for prayers. Those who go to open spaces don't do it just for the sake of it. It is because the mosques are far and time restrictions are to be followed," the software engineer said.
He said the namaz hardly takes 20 minutes. "I tell you the Friday prayers are the most peaceful. There have hardly been any (communal) incident during Friday prayers".
Noting that some people claim mosques could be built in public parks if namaz is allowed, he said construction on "illegally occupied land" is considered bad in Islam.
Ansari, who works in a multinational firm in Noida, said there are several companies, like his, where employees get ample space for prayers.
Gurinder Pal Singh said offering prayers in public spaces might lead to problems and the companies or establishments can help it.
"My company and a couple of others nearby have provided a separate area for Muslims to offer prayers," Mr Singh, 27, said.
A software engineer, Mr Singh said his colleagues use a designated space within the building to offer prayers everyday and no one has objected to it.
"If they go out and use public space, it may lead to encroachment and others may follow suit. So, it is also for the companies to ensure facilities for their employees," he said.
Hindu Yuva Vahini district president Chainpal Bhati said the government's intention is not to hurt anybody's religious sentiments.
"The order to not use unauthorised public spaces for prayers is good and should be complied with. Nobody would object to namaz being offered in mosques, or katha being held in temples," he said.
Federation of Noida Resident Welfare Associations president NP Singh said any activity on public land should be done with official permission only.
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