The police have lodged an FIR against 25 people in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad after they offered namaz at an open space that, they claimed, was the private property of some of them.
A police official said the case has been registered under Indian Penal Code section 505 (public mischief) at the Chajlait Police Station. Namaz was being offered at the open space in Uttar Pradesh's Dellepur village despite warning, the official said.
Locals claimed that they have been "victimised" by the police and members of a right-wing group with blatant disregard for the Constitution which gives everyone the freedom to worship.
One of the people named in the FIR said the police complaint was lodged on June 3 and the case registered on August 24.
Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Rural, Sandeep Kumar Meena said, "The villagers continued to perform namaz in the open space despite a warning and being told to do it at their houses. So, we have registered a case against 25 people."
Wahid Saifi, who has been named in the FIR, said, "We are legal owners of that land where namaz was being offered frequently since Independence. But recently, some miscreants, claiming themselves to be Bajrang Dal activists, objected to it claiming it was a new practice. They complained to the police on June 3."
Police visited the spot and checked all papers and issued summons to be present in the SDM's office, he said.
"We visited the SDM office on June 3 where Circle officer, Kanth Saloni Agrawal was also present. All legal papers were presented by us but she warned us not to perform namaz in open space and since then we were following the orders. But an FIR was lodged on August 24 in Chajlait Police Station after the transfer of the SHO," Saifi said.
"We all were unaware about any case and we came to know about it from the media," Saifi said.
Samajwadi Party MP from Moradabad, S T Hassan said that upon visiting the village he found that communal harmony prevailed in the village but some miscreants complained to the police station which was "baseless".
"Police didn't take any action but after the transfer of the SHO, they lodged the FIR. A meeting of all villagers was held in his presence and a temple and a mosque constructed by MP fund has been decided," he added.
Nobody has been arrested so far in the case.
Meanwhile, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah slammed the authorities for registration of the case, saying "the problem was not with mass gathering but offering namaz".
"I'm sure if one of the neighbours had a hawan with 26 friends and relatives that would be perfectly acceptable. It's not the mass gathering that is the problem, it's the offering of namaz," he tweeted.
(With PTI inputs)