Tuesday, Mar 18, 2003
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By Anita Joshua
Billing the February 26 suggestion of the Culture Ministry that Hindus be allowed to worship with small offerings throughout the day on Tuesday as the "best solution to the problem", the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Gauri Chatterji, wrote to the Home Secretary of Madhya Pradesh on March 14 reiterating the same.
Pointing out that the Ministry's decision was only a slight modification of the recommendations made by the State Government, Ms. Chatterji said that even the district administration of Dhar had suggested that the Bhojshala be opened as per the conditions laid down in the Tourism Minister, Jagmohan's letter of February 26 "as a short-term solution for the time-being".
This being the case, the ASI position is that Mr. Jagmohan's suggestion "be accepted and implemented as and when the law and order condition permits". While the responsibility of maintaining law and order lies with the State, the ASI will maintain its usual watch and ward staff at the monument.
Suggesting that Hindus be allowed to worship all day on Tuesdays, Mr. Jagmohan had also recommended keeping the monument open for tourists on other days as per ASI rules. As for Muslims, they would be allowed to continue offering "namaaz" at the Kamaal Maula Mosque on Fridays.
Given the fact that access to the Bhojshala was restricted from 1998 onwards after the district administration sought such a restriction following a law and order problem around the monument the previous year, the Centre's recommendation is subject to the concurrence of the State. However, with the State expressing inability to comply citing absence of consensus among the stakeholders the ball is back in the Centre's court.
Though the Centre has again put the onus on the State, the State Government appears reluctant to give in if what the Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, had to say in Delhi is anything to go by. Mr. Singh, who is here to meet the Chief Election Commissioner, told presspersons that he wanted a clear-cut direction from the Centre on this issue; not a suggestion.
The Centre's intervention in the Bhojshala controversy raked up recently by the Hindu Jagran Manch came in the wake of the State Government formally seeking permission in February to open the monument for prayers for two hours on Tuesdays as the Bhojshala was under the ASI's control. After restrictions were imposed in 1998, Hindus were allowed to offer prayers annually on Basant Panchami and Muslims "namaaz" every Friday.
However, with the BJP and the Hindu Jagran Manch insisting that Hindus be allowed to offer prayers on all days, the Culture Ministry decided to give in to this demand partially by expanding the scope of the State Government's suggestion. Moreover, contrary to the State Government's recommendation, the Centre also suggested that devotees be allowed to make small offerings to the presiding deity, Wagdevi.
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