500 workers of Islamic party arrested in Tamil Nadu

May 9th, 2008 - 5:35 pm ICT by admin  

Vellore (Tamil Nadu), May 9 (IANS) About 500 workers of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) attempting to pray in a disused 200-year-old mosque inside the fort here were arrested Friday, Vellore District Collector D.P. Yadav said. “Over 2,000 police personnel were pressed into service under the supervision of Deputy Inspector General T.P. Sundamurthy and Superintendent N. Arivuselvam. Today’s attempt at a protest namaz was peaceful. As the TMMK volunteers courted arrest, they indicated that today’s event was only a dress rehearsal for something bigger,” Yadav said.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had refused permission for Friday prayers at the mosque. These were scheduled for 12.30 p.m. following a week-long TMMK call to all Muslims in Tamil Nadu to congregate here to offer worship “and claim their birthright”.

Though said to have been built in the 13th century, the fort’s known history began with its renovation in 1566 during the Vijayanagar regime by its Nayakkar chieftains, according to accounts published by the 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 British control in 1760 till India’s independence in 1947, according to a Tamil Nadu government communique issued July 2006, when Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi released a stamp in commemoration of the first war of independence in 1857.

Situated 130 km west of capital Chennai, in the middle of this town famous for its Christian Mission College and Hospital, the fort houses a Shiva temple (Jalakanteshwarar shrine), a church and a mosque.

The fort had been used as a prison by the British for several royal families - some of them being the descendants of Pandiyan king Kattabomman, Tipu Sultan, and the entire clan of Kandyan clan of Wickrema Raja Singha defeated by the British in 1816 in Sri Lanka, historical records available here say.

The ASI and a trust were granted control of the fort in 1958, according to government records.

After a protracted battle since 1961, a few Hindus gained permission to offer worship in the shrine inside the fort in 1981 under ASI control and supervision. Till Friday, prayers had not been offered inside the mosque and the church for almost 200 years, locals said.

Hindu groups alleged that the protest namaaz was the handiwork of Islamic fundamentalists who want to compete with the 27-year-old offering of Hindu prayers inside the fort.

“While the Jalakanteshwarar temple has been in existence since the 13th century and is a sign of patriotism, the mosque is a symbol of alien rule. The demand to offer worship inside the fort is without any justification whatsoever”, Rama Gopalan, leader of the Hindu Front, said Thursday.

“Any unauthorised entry into the fort or activity within is prohibited”, an ASI signboard proclaims at the entrance of the fort.

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