Locals demand rebuilding of 600-year-old Akhunji mosque in Mehrauli
The Akhunji mosque as well as the Behrul Uloom madrasa were demolished by the DDA on 30 January, apparently as 'illegal structures'
A week after the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) razed a 600-year-old mosque in Sanjay Van in south Delhi's Mehrauli, locals have demanded that the agency rebuild a mosque at the same site.
The centuries-old Akhunji mosque as well as the Behrul Uloom madrasa were demolished by the DDA on 30 January for being "illegal structures" in Sanjay Van. The DDA has defended its action before the high court on the ground that the demolition took place pursuant to the recommendations of the Religious Committee dated 4 January.
The residents claimed a cemetery was also demolished during the drive. Fauzan Ahmed Siddiqui, a member of the management committee of Dargah Qutub Sahan in Mehrauli, said the area where the mosque, madrasa and cemetery were demolished has been barricaded and nobody is allowed to go inside.
Delhi High Court on Monday asked the DDA to maintain status quo with respect to the land in Mehrauli where a mosque, stated to be over six centuries old, was demolished last month. The court, while listing the matter for further hearing on 12 February, stated that DDA shall maintain status quo over the site where the Akhunji mosque was located.
Regarding the recommendation of the Religious Committee, Siddiqui said the DDA should have gone to the court for a decision on the matter, and demanded that people be allowed to enter the cemetery area.
"If someone dies today, where do we take them? There is already a lack of cemeteries. The madrasa, graveyards and mosque were demolished without any prior intimation," he said. "It is being said that a notice was received from the revenue department on 2 January. The religious committee meeting was held on 4 January, and no one received any notice. They came and gave a notice an hour before the demolition and told people to remove their belongings."
Israr Ali, general secretary of Akhunji mosque, said the property is in the gazette of the Waqf board. "The Waqf board has this property in its gazette. There were around 25 children in the madrasa, who have been shifted to nearby madrasas. In 1994, the mosque came under Sanjay Van protected area which covers 738 acres of land," Ali said.
Siddiqui, however, said, "If there was encroachment, it does not mean you can raze an entire mosque. Encroachment had to be removed. There is a difference between an encroachment and a structure. We demand that the demarcation be done along with the fencing. The cemetery should be opened and the mosque rebuilt at that place and given protection by the Waqf board."
Siddiqui added that the Akhunji mosque was very old and renovated around 100 years ago. Nasir Ali, who has been digging graves at the cemetery since 1976, alleged, "The demolition took place around 5.00 am. There were several orphan children who lived in the madrasa. They were made to stand outside. The officials took away the mobile phone of the imam during the drive."
The high court's order on Monday came on a plea by the managing committee of the Delhi Waqf Board, which has argued that the demolition was illegal. The waqf counsel urged the court to direct maintenance of status quo on the site.
The decision to raze the mosque, DDA stated, was taken after the Religious Committee afforded a hearing to the CEO of the Delhi Waqf Board.
The petitioner contended that the Religious Committee has no jurisdiction to order any demolition action. On 31 January, the court asked the DDA to file its response clearly setting out the action that has been taken in respect of the property concerned as well as its basis. It also asked the DDA to state whether any prior notice was given before undertaking the demolition action.