The Wakf Board, the statutory body looking after Muslim religious trusts, has objected to the inclusion of several mosques in the new list of proposed heritage structures.
The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) current list of protected heritage buildings already includes old mosques in the city such as the Jama Masjid in Zaveri Bazaar, Minara Masjid and Imamwada's Mogul Masjid.
However, the new list plans to include others such as Nagdevi Street mosque and the Bakkar Kasab mosque in Dongri. The list also proposes to include cemeteries and musafirkhanas.
ND Pathan, chief executive officer of Wakf, has written to the BMC protesting against the decision.
"As per the Wakf Act, once a property is declared as a Wakf, it remains that; the status cannot be changed. We have asked for a fresh survey of buildings so that Wakf properties can be taken off the list," he said.
According to Namazi Ali, honorary secretary of the 150-year-old Iranian Mosque (Mogul Masjid), misgivings about the heritage tag was mainly due to concerns about the government's interference. "The trustees will need the government's permission to even paint the structure," said Ali, adding, "There are so many old monuments in the city that are falling apart, why can't the government take care of them?"
Javed Shroff, trustee of a Bandra mosque (not on the heritage list), said that while architectural heritage needed to be protected, the heritage tag would restrict a mosque's future expansion. "Congregations are growing and more space is needed to pray. While architectural aesthetics need to preserved, it cannot be at the cost of future needs," he said.
However, there are those that feel that Wakf properties can be heritage sites too. Hanif Nalkhande, trustee of the 180-year-old Jama Masjid, said, "Even the Taj Mahal is a Wakf property, but it is a protected monument. If a Wakf structure has historical or architectural value, it should be declared a heritage structure. The tag gives value and protection to the property."
Nalkhande said they were very happy when Jama Masjid was declared a heritage monument in 2001. "We did not get any help from the government, but we decided to restore it on our own," he said.
The restoration work, which was spread over five years, was done using funds generated by the trust.
Abha Narain Lambah, conservation architect and author of several books on Islamic architecture, said inclusion of more mosques in the heritage list was an acknowledgement of the contribution of Islamic architecture to Mumbai's cosmopolitanism. "The Wakf board should welcome the move. Every building has its own requirements and a heritage tag will not put a freeze on its needs," she said.