Efforts by civic authorities to evict and cordon off the site near Jama Masjid where unauthorised construction was taking place on the remains of what is believed to be the Akbarabadi mosque met with stiff resistance on Saturday.
When officials of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, acting on a high court order, reached the site with a large posse of security personnel around 12.30pm, a number of local residents shouted slogans, threw stones and tried to halt vehicular traffic. Two persons sustained minor injuries even as protesters broke the windshield of a low-floor Delhi Transport Corporation bus.
Security personnel had come prepared with tear-gas shells. Around 700-800 personnel from 10 companies, including those from the paramilitary forces, soon took control of the situation.
Civic body officials then cleared the site — of almost 2 acres (8,150 sq metres) — and cordoned it off.
Delhi High Court had on Friday had stayed the unauthorised construction at the site and asked the north corporation to hand over the site to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It would carry out investigations to ascertain if the remains were indeed from the Mughal era and those of 1650-built Akbarabadi mosque, destroyed by the British in the aftermath of the 1857 revolt.
Around 2pm, a group of protesters threatened to offer prayers on the adjacent road. However, Alay Mohammad, the son of Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal, appealed to them to maintain peace.
An ASI team inspected the site. They were shown two boxes full of pottery and other items found during digging at the site earlier.
“However, they have neither taken over the site nor started any investigation today. Till the time they start investigations, we would take care of the land,” said PK Gupta, the commissioner of the north corporation.
ASI spokesperson BR Mani assured, “We will abide by the high court order.”
By evening, things had settled down even as police continued deployment of about 500 of its personnel.