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Tussle over land ownership, heritage structures

It was a déjà vu situation for the residents of BK Dutt Colony in Jor Bagh when tension erupted during a religious procession on account of Chellum, a Shia celebration, and attempts to open a shrine gate, which always remains locked. Nivedita Khandekar reports.

delhi Updated: Jan 16, 2012 00:08 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

It was a déjà vu situation for the residents of BK Dutt Colony in Jor Bagh when tension erupted during a religious procession on account of Chellum, a Shia celebration, and attempts to open a shrine gate, which always remains locked.


The colony has seen such situations in the past as well owing to a dispute over land ownership and alterations to heritage structures under the management of Anjuman-e-Haideri, which is under the Shia Wakf Board.

The Anjuman manages the Dargah Shah-e-Mardana, the main shrine, Nakkarkhana, tomb of Maha Khanam, two entry gates (eastern and western), Qanati Masjid, Chhoti Karbala (small ground) and the Karbala (large ground) — all in the same neighbourhood.

Of these, the dargah building, the Nakkarkhana, tomb of Maha Khanam and the Qanati Masjid are listed heritage structures of architectural value grade II. It means no alterations can be made without the knowledge of the civic agency — here the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) — and permission from the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC).

Since 2005, the Delhi high court has been hearing a land ownership issue between Anjuman organisation versus Land & Development Officer (L&DO) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

Later, colony residents joined the dispute as the Shia organisation allegedly tried to alter the heritage structures. The NDMC too got involved as it was given the task of removing encroachments, which was disputed by the Anjuman. The issue went to the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).

On Sunday, the Anjuman members claimed they wanted to open the western gate owing to a number of people expected to come to take part in the tazia procession for the Chellum. The colony was flooded with dargah devotees.

"Moreover, on January 11, Justice Hima Kohli had already ruled in our favour by upholding our claim," claimed Abbas Naqvi, Anjuman secretary.

However, a resident from the area requesting anonymity countered: "The court only gave direction for demarcation of land in the presence of DDA and L&DO authorities. The NDMC has to comply with it."

Surprisingly, NDMC officials claimed they were not aware any court order. "We will find out details (about the order) on Monday. All we know is that the land ownership first needs to be confirmed and also no alterations can be done to any of the structures without permission."

The Anjuman's permission for repairs is pending with the HCC, he said.

Naqvi said, "We are again going to approach NCM."