A gap in the boundary wall stares at visitors to the Qudsia Masjid in Old Delhi, where the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is running a conservation programme.
The gap, on the Ring Road side of the boundary wall, was a deliberate move by the authorities when a new boundary wall with a two-metre-tall iron railing was built around the monument. The ASI is yet to decide whether to put a gate in the gap or fill it.
The 18th century monument, located at the junction of Ring Road and the Boulevard Road, figured for years in a list of 12 monuments in the ASI’s Delhi circle that faced encroachment. The squatters were evicted only after a case in Delhi High Court went in favour of the agency.
“The court, however, allowed the prayers to be held there,” said a senior ASI official, on the condition of anonymity. This has meant a steady stream of visitors, especially on Fridays.
There is pressure on the authorities to allow entry to more people for prayers amid palpable tension. One or two persons have also been seen staying at the monument overnight.
When this correspondent visited the monument on Monday, there were tell-tale signs of encroachment.
Mats, a cooler and a cupboard were among other things to be seen in the arched verandah. Laundry hung from the clothesline near the wall facing the Ring Road. However, only those working on the conservation programme could be seen near the mosque.
“Several attempts have been made to encroach the monument again. One of the occupants has filed a suit against the ASI,” said the official. “We have deliberately left the gap in the wall and are yet to take a final call in view of the developments.”
The opening in the compound wall continues to be used as a thoroughfare by visitors to the Qudsia garden and also by those going westwards to Alipur Road and Shamnath Marg.