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Tear gas fired at Hindu worshippers

Police step in as Hindu-Muslim clash simmers

Tear gas fired at Hindu worshippers
Extra police were deployed ahead of Friday's potential flashpoint reporter, Bhopal

February 15, 2013

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Police fired tear gas at Hindus in central India’s Dhar district on Friday after they refused to leave a place of worship when a Hindu festival coincided with Muslim prayers.

At the end of a week which has seen a ramped up police presence and arguments over whether Muslims would be allowed to pray as normal, Hindus refused to leave Bhojshala temple at 12:30 pm and pelted police with stones as tensions rose. No-one was reported injured after police responded with tear gas.

The archaeological Survey of India, the organization which manages the site claimed by both religions, had allotted Muslims a time of between 1 pm and 3pm for Friday prayers.

“The administration was keeping a tight vigil on the movement of devotees amidst a tense atmosphere,” said district collector CB Singh, the head administrator in Dhar.

Authorities kept Hindu seer Narendranand under house arrest on Thursday night following threats to march on the temple to mark the annual Vasant Panchami festival after the local government refused to bar Muslims from the site.

He was freed on Friday and allowed to visit the temple under police protection.

Some hardline Hindu groups had asked residents to boycott events at the temple after it was announced that Muslims would be allotted a time to carry out prayers on Friday on what is an auspicious day for Hindus.

The majority in the area, Hindus typically visit the temple every Tuesday, but this year the festival of Vasant Panchami fell on Friday.

The 10th century structure has been a cause of tension over the past half century with Hindu groups saying Muslims turned it into a mosque after it was originally a temple dedicated to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. 

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