Experts debate if prayers should be allowed at protected sites | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Experts debate if prayers should be allowed at protected sites

delhi Updated: Aug 22, 2012 01:26 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

A day after Union minister Azad offered Eid prayers at Safdarjang tomb - a centrally protected site where prayers are prohibited - heritage lovers, experts and activists debated the development.

Azad had on Monday offered Eid prayers at a mosque within the premises of 18th century Safdarjung Tomb, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

OP Jain, a pioneer in heritage activism, said: "It (Azad's prayer) can unnecessarily lead to an atmosphere which nobody wants." As per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Remains Act, no religious ritual is allowed at any protected monuments if the practice was not prevalent at the time it was notified as protected. But at several monuments in Delhi, prayers continue to be offered by forcible entry.

"In case of Safdarjung Tomb, it was during former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's regime that only Friday prayers were allowed through an executive order," said Sohail Hashmi, a heritage activist.

"Azad is just following a hallowed tradition of his party," Hashmi said.

Lawyer Gaurang Kant pointed out, "If an executive order overrides a statute or a law laid down by Parliament, it can always be challenged."

"Before the very few mosques protected by ASI are requested for prayers, the condition of mosques in possession of the Wakf board needs to be restored to its historic grandeur," said a conservationist, wishing to remain anonymous.

AGK Menon, head of conservation NGO Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (Delhi chapter) said, "If the law says not allowed, it (prayers) cannot be allowed."

He said: "In principle, a monument should be used. However, the use should be regulated to ensure that the integrity of the monument is respected."