Earlier yesterday, reports of Namaz being offered on Bakrid at one of the holiest sites of Hinduism, Badrinath, created quite a flutter on social media websites, with users demanding a probe into the matter as to how non-Hindus were allowed to offer Namaz inside the premises of a hallowed Hindu shrine.
What was the controversy about?
The controversy that fuelled outrage on social media websites relates to rumours that claimed 15 labourers offered Namaz at the Badrinath Dham in the holy town on the occasion of the Bakri Eid on July 21 (Wednesday). Soon thereafter, the reports spread like wildfire on the internet, drawing flak from people on social media, who felt hurt that one of the foremost Hindu pilgrim shines was used by Muslims to offer namaz.
The raging controversy also came to the notice of Hindu organisations and members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal even met Uttarakhand Cabinet Minister Satpal Maharaj on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum, raising objections to Muslims performing Namaz in the holy town of Hindus and demanding a probe into the same.
They expressed displeasure saying that when Hindus devotees are not being allowed to visit the holy shrine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then how can Muslims be allowed to offer Namaz, that too at a place which is considered extremely sacred by the Hindus.
Police refutes claims of namaz being offered inside Badrinath temple
Meanwhile, the local police had already taken cognisance of the online outrage on July 21 when the rumours of temple premises being used to offer namaz started doing the rounds on the internet. They launched an investigation into the matter and later released a statement, refuting the allegations and asserting that namaz was not offered inside the premise of Badrinath Dham as being alleged in various media reports.
In its press release that was shared by the official Twitter account of Chamoli police yesterday, it urged the people to refrain from believing such unverified claims circulating on various social media platforms. The press note read that the Muslim labourers working as construction workers building a parking lot close to the temple offered Namaz inside a closed space without using loudspeakers and without the presence of any cleric or Maulvi.
They also followed the Covid protocol of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, it added.
कृपया अफवाहों से बचें बिना सत्यता को जाने कोई भी खबर साझा ना करें।— chamoli police (@chamolipolice) July 21, 2021
चमोली पुलिस pic.twitter.com/BNExacKa6N
As the controversy swelled despite their clarification a day before, the Chamoli police yesterday shared a video clip in which the Superintendent of Police, Chamoli, Shri Yashwant Singh Chouhan stated that the police have not found any evidence to substantiate the claims which did the rounds on social media. Confirming that the Namaz was not read in a public place, Chouhan said: “Chamoli police request all of you, please do not share any misleading news without verifying the facts”.
पुलिस अधीक्षक चमोली श्री यशवंत सिंह चौहान महोदय द्वारा श्री बद्रीनाथ धाम के सम्बन्ध में वायरल सूचना के सम्बन्ध में दी गयी विस्तृत जानकारी।— chamoli police (@chamolipolice) July 22, 2021
चमोली पुलिस का आप सभी से निवेदन कृपया बिना तत्थयों की पुष्टि किये कोई भी भ्रामक खबर साझा ना करें। pic.twitter.com/9dCgOzpW5X
Reports of Muslim labourers flouting COVID norms
Besides the rumours that Muslim labourers offered namaz inside the temple premises, it was also alleged that they had defied COVID guidelines. A report published by Dainik Jagran claimed that a complaint was registered against the 15 labourers for flouting Covid norms. Chamoli police, however, clarified that the offering of the Namaz was a private affair, and the workers had adhered to all covid protocols while doing the same.
Though the police confirmed carrying out an investigation, there was no mention of any case being registered against the labourers. Chamoli police said that in case, during the investigation, it is revealed that Covid protocols were flouted, then appropriate action would be taken under the Disaster Management Act.
The facts of the matter: Namaz offered not inside the Badrinath shrine but at an enclosed parking, 700 metres away from the revered Hindu shrine
Contrary to the rumours that were floating on social media websites, the said labourers did not offer namaz inside the temple premises of Badrinath Dham. Instead, it was offered 700 metres away from the temple premises. An FIR has also been lodged in connection with the unlawful assembly of people during the pandemic.
As per social media user Alok Bhatt, who was also an advisor to former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, a parking facility is under construction at Sri Badrinath Ji, about 1 kilometre before the temple premises, near ISBT Hospital. It is a part of the project called “Astha Path” that was approved by the central government in 2018, to face-lift the temple premises in the holy town of Badrinath.
One contractor named Harendra Pawar was tasked with the responsibility of the completion of the project. Among the labourers employed, 15 Muslim workers working on the project offered namaz inside the 1st level of the parking facility, which is already completed.
SP Chamoli informed that parts of under-construction parking lot has been enclosed, in which the labourers currently stay. They had offered Namaz at the same enclosed space. There were no photographs of the Namaz and no formal arrangement was made, he added.
Facts— Alok Bhatt (@alok_bhatt) July 23, 2021
4. No video or photo of namaz is available & no one is sure of it being a reality
5. Still police acted on suspicion & filed a case under act for unlawful assembly during pandemic (surely folks will shout at this but 295A is not applicable here pic.twitter.com/gKzqj7xZpj
Bhatt also highlighted how it could be an attempt to malign the sacred Badrinath temple as no photos or videos of Namaz being allegedly offered inside the temple premises were shared. He further added that the rumours of a Maulvi being called to offer Namaz has already been rubbished by the Chamoli police.
Propaganda— Alok Bhatt (@alok_bhatt) July 23, 2021
3. A Maulvi was called -claim refuted by @chamolipolice via SP Chamoli
4. Per police, there is no evidence of namaz being offered and still it has, in keeping with the importance and sacred nature of our dham, acted and filed FIR pic.twitter.com/gKzqj7xZpj
Responding to the concern raised by some social media users regarding the demographic changes and influx of outside labourers, Bhatt said the issue is serious in nature and has been raised by him and others on many occasions and it needs to be dealt with at a society level.
Bhatt also shared a copy of the FIR that has been registered later for covid protocol violation against the contractor and some of his workers who were found gathering at a place and violating social distancing norms.
Badrinath Dham is considered one of the holiest places in the Hindu religion. One of the 108 Divya Desams, the Badrinath temple is part of Char Dham also referred to as “the four abodes”, consisting of the pilgrimage circuit of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. It is also a part of the Chota Char Dham, comprising of the pilgrimage circuit of Badrinath, Rameswaram, Dwarka and Puri. Badrinath temple was re-established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century as part of his mission to enliven Hinduism.