Four people were arrested on Thursday for allegedly offering ‘namaz’ at the Shahi mosque in the Taj Mahal premises. They were booked under section 153 of the IPC which punishes “provoking with intent to cause riots”.
Present before a local court, the four tourists — three from Hyderabad and one from Azamgarh — were granted bail the same day.
“Four tourists were arrested for offering namaz at the mosque in Taj Mahal premises on Wednesday. Three of them are from Hyderabad and one is from Azamgarh. They have been booked under the section of 153 of IPC,” said SP City Vikas Kumar.
Kumar said that the security officials spotted six people offering prayers at the mosque on Wednesday, but two of them fled taking advantage of the crowd within the premises.
Superintending archaeologist, ASI, Agra Circle Raj Kumar Patel said there is a Supreme Court order that prohibits offering of namaz inside Taj premises on all days except Friday. He said even on Friday only the residents of Tajganj locality – where the mausoleum is located – are allowed to pray between 12 pm and 2 pm.
According to some, prohibition on offering of namaz inside the Taj mosque was unheard of till a few days back.
“Namaz has been offered at the mosque of the Taj Mahal regularly. But some days ago the Archaeological Survey of India claimed that as per the order of the Supreme Court of India offering Namaz is prohibited in the mosque premises except Friday,” said Ibrahim Zaidi, the head of the Intezamia Committee at Taj Mahal.
Zaidi said the committee has asked the ASI to give the prohibition in writing with proof and also display a board announcing the prohibition to the tourists.
Vinod Dixit, a tourist guide from Lucknow, who accompanied the tourists, claimed that the accused had no idea they were committing a crime.
“They had no idea that they cannot offer namaz. They did it by mistake. There wasn’t even any notice board saying that it’s prohibited,” he said.
The incident comes in the backdrop of pressure from right-wing Hindu groups demanding that they be allowed to offer prayers in what the claim is a Shiv temple (called Tejo Mahalaya) inside Taj Mahal complex.