Days after the Noida police told multinational companies in Sector- 58 to direct their employees not to offer Friday prayers in a community park, a video showing a group of right-wing activists bullying a few Muslims in the park has emerged as the likely cause of the much-criticised diktat.
The video starts with one of the right-wing activists asking the Muslim devotees whether they had come all the way from Bihar's Kishangarh to "build a mosque". When one of the devotees says that they are only observing the namaz, the activist accuses them of creating a commotion in plain sight of everybody. Even explanations that they gather in the park only on Fridays failed to cut ice with their detractors.
The activist in question identified himself as Manoj Sharma, a local resident.
While the people who shot the video were likely fringe activists, it did not take long for the city police to address their grievance by instructing at least 12 multi-national corporations -- including tech major HCL -- to forbid their Muslim employees from offering prayers at the park.
"It is a public park, and the land belongs to the Noida Authority," District Magistrate BN Singh told NDTV. "They neither took permission for observing namaz in park nor completed any formalities in this regard."
The government official refused to comment at length on the video, saying that there was "no need for the district administration to go into the details of a conversation between two individuals". "Let the formalities be completed. I am not going to react to what 'A' or 'B' is saying," he added.
BJP legislator Pankaj Singh also refused to consider this as an instance of religious discrimination. "They were supposed to get permission from the authorities before observing namaz in the park. That's all there is to it," he said.
Their explanation, however, has not convinced opposition parties. "What did you expect the ruling BJP to do after failing to provide jobs and livelihoods to the people? Forbidding people from holding prayers is the only thing left for them to do in the circumstances, obviously," said Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also termed these as "discriminatory and irresponsible" steps taken by the Uttar Pradesh police to hide the BJP government's failures ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.