Hyderabad: After almost a week of communal tension and group clashes in the old city of Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh High Court today ordered status quo at the site of a disputed temple adjoining the historic monument of Charminar.

After some more trouble last night, in which groups of people of two different communities came face to face and peace was disturbed by stone pelting and a see saw battle between the mobs and the police, a division bench of the High Court ordered that the status of October 31 should be maintained and no further alteration or expansion work at the temple should be allowed.

The bench comprising acting chief justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and justice Vilas V. Afzalpurkar passed the orders on a batch of writ petitions filed by the individuals and organisations including two corporators and a MLA of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).

Describing the matter as very sensitive the bench issued notices to the state government and the Archaeological Survey of India, Hyderabad city police and the committee of Bhagya Lakshmi Mandir at Charminar. They have been asked to file their counter petitions within four weeks when the court will take up the matter for further hearing.

The court rejected the petitions filed by the temple committee as well as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, seeking permission for putting up a shed at the temple for the forthcoming Diwali festival and clarified that the status of October 31 should be maintained there.

Though the dispute over the temple adjacent to the south-eastern minaret of the 16th century monument is almost four decades old when a stone marking the boundary was replaced with a small temple, the issue came to a boil once again last week.

The trouble started around midnight last Wednesday when the temple committee started digging work near Charminar to put up a tin shed. Taking objection to this the local people held a protest forcing the police to stop the work.

The situation turned tense again on Sunday when the local units of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal tried to take out a procession from Kothi to Charminar to take up the work. However, they postponed the plan after Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma held discussions with them.

The situation flared up late last night when groups of the two communities gathered around Charminar, shouting slogans and throwing stones. Some vehicles, shops and an ATM of a bank were damaged by the miscreants.

Police and the Rapid Action Force used force and fired tear gas shells to disperse the mobs. Patrolling was intensified in the area.

Hyderabad Member of Parliament and MIM President Asaduddin Owaisi stressed that it was not a Hindu versus Muslim issue but it was a question of protecting a historical monument which belongs to all the people. “It is unfortunate that some communally biased elements in the police and the government were trying to give it a communal colour by siding with those who were hell-bent upon damaging the monument. What has been built there is an illegal structure. It is a violation of the act, the government orders and the Supreme Court guidelines. But the police is siding with the temple committee and ASI is keeping quiet,” he told the media.

But the state BJP president G. Kishan Reddy said that the work was not extension or construction of the temple but was meant only to install a shed in view of the forthcoming Diwali festival.