– Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi, Dec. 27: In the name of easing traffic, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has allegedly planned to demolish the 150-year-old Sunehri Baghwali Masjid located in front of Udyog Bhavan in Lutyens’ Delhi. After the Delhi High Court put a spanner into its execution plan, NDMC published a notice in newspapers on Sunday, seeking public opinion on the demolition of the Masjid by January 1, 2024. This led to sharp criticism of the civic body.
The notice issued by the Department of Architecture and Environment at NDMC reads:
“New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), under Sections 202 and 207, both to be read in conjunction with Section 11 clauses (n) and (p), after receiving reference from Delhi Traffic Police for providing a traffic engineering proposal to ensure sustainable mobility in the vicinity of the roundabout of Sunehri Bagh, has applied to the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) for the removal of Sunehri Masjid.”
The notice also asked the general public to submit suggestions and objections, with January 1 as the deadline. Objectors quickly surfaced, highlighting the mosque’s cultural and historical value as well as its significance as a place of worship for the Muslim community.
The notice stated that the mosque is a Grade III heritage building, as per an October 2009 notification from the Delhi government.
The Masjid’s imam, Abdul Aziz, asserted that transportation is not in any way hampered by the Masjid. “There are dozens of roundabouts in Lutyens’ zone where, during peak hours, traffic snarls are a common feature. Is NDMC planning to remove all those roundabouts?” Abdul Aziz asked.
Abdul Aziz told Radiance NDMC had destroyed a dargah close to the Masjid for the same reason a few months ago, and a walkway was built.
“Approximately 200 people come to the Masjid daily and close to 500 on Fridays. No one parks cars on streets or outside the complex, and a large number of employees from surrounding offices come to offer namaz here,” he said, adding that Juma prayer was held in the entire circle around the roundabout, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced an end to this practice, and now it is held three times.
Also Read: Dark clouds over Sunehri Bagh Masjid
The sprawling roundabout has a chilling metro rail plant that occupies a huge area of it. The mosque-built area is one-third of the roundabout, while the rest is a chilling plant.
The Imam, who has been serving the Masjid for 20 years, said the Masjid management committee sought time from NDMC for a meeting but didn’t get any response.
The Masjid’s attorney, Masroor Hasan Siddiqui, called NDMC a ‘mischief’. Highlighting the legal aspect of the Masjid, Siddiqui told Radiance that the Masjid is a Grade-III heritage building as per the October 2009 Delhi government notification and is very well documented in Delhi Gazette’s page number 9. In July this year, he said Delhi High Court ordered a status quo, and furthermore, on December 18, it disposed of a petition filed by Delhi Waqf Board against the demolition order.
Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav noted, “Since the parties have largely agreed on the aforesaid issues, therefore, at this stage, this court is not required to adjudicate the prayer anymore.” The court’s stance was articulated after the Additional Solicitor General stressed that the administration would not act “in contravention of the legal position.”
Despite the court’s orders, issuing notice and seeking public opinion is absolutely nothing but mischief and a plot to target the mosque, Siddiqui said. The mosque is listed under 123 Waqf properties handed over to Delhi Waqf Board by the Union Government, he added.
Maulana Mohibullah Nadvi, Imam of Jama Masjid, near Parliament House, said mosque is “a significant part of our community’s history and culture,” having been constructed by the people of Malcha village. Recalling the agreement between then British government and Muslims of the city, he said it is also a heritage site, one of the 42 Waqf Board properties given back to Sunni Majlis-e-Auqaf, a department set up by the British government in 1942 under Delhi Muslim Waqf Act.
Sharply reacting to the NDMC action, All India Muslim Personal Law Board said any conspiracy to demolish the mosque will not be tolerated.
In a statement, Dr. Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, the Board’s spokesperson, said traffic issues cannot be used as a pretext to remove a mosque. He warned that if NDMC carries out its removal plan, it will be contempt of the court, which has ordered it to maintain the status quo on many occasions.
The Board believes it is critical to make it clear that Indian Muslims won’t tolerate the mosque’s demolition. The mosque is the abode and gift of Allah, Dr. Ilyas said.
Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (M), president, Maulana Mahmood Madani, dispatched a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, expressing his deep concern regarding the proposed demolition plan of Sunehri Baghwali Masjid.