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ASI directive on Bhojsala

By Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI APRIL 7. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has directed the Madhya Pradesh Government to open the controversial Bhojshala temple complex in Dhar to tourists' daily and for worship from dawn-to-dusk on Tuesdays and two hours in the afternoon on Fridays.

Though a similar recommendation was made by the Union Culture Ministry in late February and reiterated by the ASI mid-March, statutory orders to this effect have been issued by the ASI Director-General, Gauri Chatterjee, in view of the State Government's contention that it would not open the controversial protected site without clear instructions from the Centre.

In her letter to the Madhya Pradesh Home Secretary, the ASI Director-General noted that maintaining law and order around the complex was the responsibility of the district administration.

As per the order — to be implemented with immediate effect — Hindus should be allowed to offer prayers at Bhojshala all day on Tuesdays. Also, the order allows them to make small offerings to the presiding deity, Wagdevi. Muslims can offer `namaaz' (prayers) at the Kamaal Maula mosque every Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Hindus prayers on "Basant Panchami" as has been the practice since restrictions were imposed on the complex in 1998.

On other days, the complex will be open to tourists.

While adults will be charged Re. 1 as entrance fee, children below 15 will be allowed free.

The Centre's order makes a slight deviation from the recommendation made by the State in February after the Hindu Jagran Manch raked up the issue and demanded that Hindus be allowed to offer prayers at Bhojshala freely.

In view of the situation around the complex, the district administration recommended that Hindus be allowed to pray without any offerings for two hours on Tuesdays. However, the Culture Ministry decided to allow Hindus access to the complex for prayers all day on Tuesday.

Taking the plea that there was no consensus among the stakeholders on this suggestion, the State Government referred the matter back to the Centre.

With the ASI in mid-March reiterating the Ministry's recommendation as the "best solution to the problem,'' and pointing out that the Dhar district administration had also suggested that Bhojshala be opened as per the conditions laid down in the Culture Minister, Jagmohan's letter of February 26 "as a short-term solution for the time-being,'' the Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, insisted that clear directives be issued to this effect.

The Centre first intervened in the Bhojshala controversy after Mr. Singh refused to give in to the demand of the Manch on the ground that the decision to open a protected monument had to be taken by the ASI.

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