New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Friday ordered suspension of new construction on the ruins of a 17th century mosque unearthed here, but a Muslim leader said the ruling violated their religious sentiments.
Hours before the court ruling, thousands gathered at the site near the historic Jama Masjid for Friday prayers, with a large number of policemen keeping a close watch.
The court asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to take over the site at Subhash Park and to ascertain if the Akbarabadi Masjid, whose ruins have been reportedly found, did exist or not.
The area legislator, Shoiab Iqbal, who is campaigning for a new mosque at the site, said the court decision went “against people’s sentiments and faith”.
According to Iqbal, remnants of the mosque came up when Delhi Metro dug up the area for laying new line. Since then, Iqbal has been overseeing the building of a brick-and-mortar mosque at the very spot.
“Remains of the historical mosque were found here. Let the ASI find out the truth,” Iqbal, who addressed the crowds Friday, told IANS. “We are not doing anything illegal.”
Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Judges Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Rajiv Shakdher said: “It is ASI which has to take over the site immediately to investigate whether Akbarabadi Masjid existed or not.”
They ordered the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to cordon off the site with police assistance.
“There should not be further construction at the site,” the judges said.
“We also expect the government at the highest level to deal with the issue.”
Earlier Friday, thousands of Muslims, dominantly males, began converging near the Jama Masjid after noon to pray at the newly discovered mosque.
The prayers went off peacefully. But many stayed on to watch what was going on. By 2.30 p.m., the crowds began to thin.
The prayers at the sprawling redstone Jama Masjid took place earlier.
Later in the evening, an aide to Iqbal told IANS: “We stopped construction two days back.”
But an IANS correspondent saw workers erecting brick walls and minarets just before the Friday prayers.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit earlier met ASI and police officials as well as those of the ministry of urban development.
According to ASI, the Akbarabadi mosque was built by Bibi Akbarabadi, one of the wives of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
Apparently, the British destroyed it after the First War of Independence in 1857.
Subhash Park falls within the restricted zone of two protected heritage sites — Sunehri Masjid and Red Fort.
Any construction in the area requires permission from the National Monuments Authority.
The municipal corporation took possession of the land Thursday and banned further construction, which was drawing hundreds over the last two weeks.
“My relatives told me that a historical mosque was discovered here. This is Ramzan week, so we have come to offer prayers,” said Shamim Bano, a 42-year-old woman from Meerut.
The Daily News Post India (tdnpost)