A mob barged into a 15th Century heritage site in Karnataka's Bidar, that houses a madrasa and mosque, and performed puja during Dasara festivities, police sources said on Friday.
Nine people have been booked and four of them arrested in connection with the incident, they said adding it reportedly took place during the early hours of Thursday.
Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, however, said there was no law and order situation as devotees went inside to perform certain rituals at a spot where a "Shami" tree stood years ago. They had been following this custom for ages. The Shami tree (Prosopis cineraria) is considered holy and worshipped during Dasara festivities.
According to the complainant, Mohammed Shafiuddin, a mosque committee member, the incident took place when a procession to immerse a Durga idol was passing near the place of worship and the unruly group comprised about 60 people.
After a video clip, purportedly of the incident went viral on social media, tension prevailed in parts of Bidar for a while and a section of Muslims staged a protest demanding action against those responsible for it.
Madrasa-e-Mahmad Gawan or the madrasa of Mohamud Gawan is an ancient Islamic institute in Bidar. The heritage site also houses a mosque. Khwaja Muhammad Gilani (Mahmud Gawan) built this madrasa at Bidar in 1472 AD.
A group of people is said to have performed the puja after entering the premises, allegedly by threatening the security personnel during the 'Bhavani Devi' procession. Following the incident, adequate police personnel have been deployed around the site in the old city area to prevent any untoward incidents, officials said.
The protesters alleged that the group forcibly entered into the heritage building complex and performed puja with an intention to "disturb communal harmony."
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Araga Jnanendra said there was a Shami tree inside the madrasa complex for many years. That tree is not there anymore as it was cut for some reasons. "During Dasara, people used to go there and worship. This time also the same thing happened. Earlier the number of people worshipping the tree was less but this time it increased. Earlier five to six people used to go and worship but this time 25 to 30 people went there,” Jnanendra said. Those who went inside the premises to offer prayers themselves shot a video and released it, leading to to tension for a while, he said.
The protesters dispersed after Additional Superintendent of Police, Mahesh Meghannanavar and other officers assured them of stringent action against the culprits.
According to a section of the local people, the devotees of 'Bhavani Mandir' perform a symbolic puja every year on a platform near 'Gawan madrasa', which once had a Shami tree, considered holy.
The tradition of breaking a coconut during the Dasara procession at the site was being followed, though the tree does not exist there anymore.
In the purported video clip, the people who gained entry into the site could be heard shouting slogans like "Bhavani Mata ki Jai," "Vande Mataram" and "Hindu Dharam ki jai".
An imposing three-storied building, the madarasa was a renowned centre of learning. A library, lecture halls, quarters for professors and students, a mosque were among its features.
The institution had scholars imparting knowledge of Arabic and Persian languages, theology, philosophy and mathematics.
Reacting strongly against the incident, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi ïn a tweet said, "Visuals from historic Mahmud Gawan masjid & madrasa, Bidar, #Karnataka (5th October). Extremists broke the gate lock & attempted to desecrate. @bidar_police @BSBommai how can you allow this to happen? BJP is promoting such activity only to demean Muslims."