Police in Uttar Pradesh have booked five Muslims including three women after they decided to perform prayers inside a hall, legally owned by one of them.
The cops have booked them by invoking charges of promoting enmity between religious communities under IPC section 153.
According to a report by Indian Express, the FIR was lodged at Sadnagli police station against Ahmed Ali, his brother Rehmat Ali, Tahiba, Zareena and Sahjahan.
All those booked are the residents of Sakatpur village and they’ve been accused of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
Media reports quoting police said that some local residents had objected to Muslims offering prayers in a hall, owned by Ali. However, the local administration concluded that this was an unlawful activity since the place was not recognised as a mosque.
Ahmed Ali was told to not allow anyone other than his family members to offer namaz there. The district administration’s directive came in violation of the article 25(1) of the Indian constitution, which allows a citizen to freely profess, practise and propagate religion.
Avinash Kumar Gautam, Circle Officer, Hasanpur, said, “Despite the dispute being resolved, these five accused were found giving false statements of harassment at the hands of Hindus, which could have led to communal tension in the village.”
Shabbir Ali, a relative of the accused Rehmat Ali said, “We used to hold namaz in the hall for the last four years. A mosque was built after mutual understanding between members of both the communities. Now, some have raised the issue. We have stopped holding namaz at that place.”
Such restrictions on prayers in group exist in repressive regimes including China and most part of the central Asian countries. In a liberal and secular countries such as UK and Canada, an individual can offer prayers either alone or in a group anywhere they wish.
In UK in particular, private and government offices provide dedicated spaces to their employees to carry out their religious duties. Not so long ago, a TV ad by the British Army had used a story of a Muslim soldier highlighting how it provided a conducive environment to soldiers to practice their respective faiths.