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India: Uttarakhand Cong under fire for Friday prayer break for Muslim govt employees

The Uttarakhand government on Monday announced a special 90-minute break for government employees from the Muslim community for Friday prayers. Photograph:( WION )

Reuters Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India Dec 19, 2016, 11.12 AM (IST)

The Congress party-led administration of India's northern Uttarakhand province drew flak from opposition parties on Monday (December 19) after it announced special 90-minute break for government employees from the Muslim community for Friday prayers.

A cabinet meeting chaired by state chief Harish Rawat on Sunday (December 18) decided that a special break from 1230pm (0700 GMT) till 1400pm (0830GMT) will be given to the Muslim employees during office hours.

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) questioned the move saying it could result in rift between religious communities.

"I think to drag personal practices for political reasons and try to do this is making fun of the constitution; is throwing it aside for political purposes and this causes unnecessary rift between communities," said Nalin Kohli of the BJP.

With the state scheduled to host elections next year, right-wing Shiv Sena party, an ally of the BJP, said the provincial government was indulging in vote-bank politics.

"This is an absolutely wrong move and appeasement of the minorities; today one state is coming out with such thing, tomorrow many other states will follow and this is a complete appeasement policy towards the Muslims which the Congress has been doing for last 60 years," said a leader of Shiv Sena, Manisha Kayande.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay defended the move.

"It is a good decision and should be welcomed. Every faith and religion should be respected," said Upadhyay.

According to 2011 census data, Hindus constitute over 80 percent of the population of Uttarakhand while Muslims make up less than 15 percent.