1,500 Islamic party workers held for flouting orders (Lead)

May 9th, 2008 - 10:51 pm ICT by admin  

Vellore (Tamil Nadu), May 9 (IANS) Over 1,500 workers of a Tamil Nadu Muslim party were arrested Friday for violating orders and attempting to pray at a disused 200-year-old mosque inside a fort here. The party promised to continue its struggle to offer prayers at the mosque as its “birth right”. Workers of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) tried to offer prayers at the Nawab Masjid in the 13th century Vellore Fort, against Archaeological Survey of India orders.

Vellore District Collector D.P. Yadav told IANS: “Over 2,000 police personnel were pressed into service to maintain order. Though only 500 looked like courting arrest, nearly thrice that number were eventually held as the protestors’ numbers swelled to approximately 3,000. As the event was peaceful, the protesters were let off in the evening.”

Eyewitnesses told IANS that the TMMK volunteers indicated that Friday’s event was only a dress rehearsal for a bigger protest later. TMMK general secretary Hyder Ali told IANS by phone from Chennai that over 10,000, including TMMK leader M.N. Jawahirullah, were arrested.

“Today’s event was only a symbolic protest against the Archaeological Survey of India that refused us permission for our prayers at the mosque in the fort which is our birth right. If proper responses from the central and state governments are not forthcoming, our struggle will have to be long and bitter,” Ali said.

“The ASI has allowed Hindus to worship at the temple within the fort. So, why are we alone being unjustly denied the privilege? Further, why is the government downplaying our protest?” an angry Ali asked.

Meanwhile, according to sources a bigger gathering is being planned in Vallam, a small town in Thanjavur, for two days from Saturday afternoon. It is being organised by the Tawheed Jamaat, another Islamic group.

“Some 200,000 devout Muslims will congregate there and demand the rights denied to us for so long. In fact, today’s event in Vellore was an attempt to jump the gun,” Jamaat sources added.

Though it is said to have been built in the 13th century, Vellore fort finds first recorded mention in 1566 when it was renoved during the Vijayanagaram regime by its Nayakkar chieftains, according to accounts published by a temple here.

The fort was captured and held by the Bijapur Muslim dynasty (1656-1678), the Marathas (1678-1707) and the Mughals (1707-1760). It finally went under the British control in 1760 till India’s independence in 1947, according to a Tamil Nadu government communiqu

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