One sure-shot way to ruin a perfectly good historic monument, is to let unauthorised occupants live in the complex and allow them to build toilets there.
In the absence of a hearing by the Delhi State Archaeology Department to claims/objections over the ownership of heritage monuments, that's exactly what's happening at the Bagichi ki Masjid — a Lodhi-era monument in Mehrauli.
The Delhi State Archaeology Department had issued a preliminary notification to bring this monument under its protection. Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) had raised objections regarding the ownership of 25 heritage monuments, including the Bagichi ki Masjid. A final notification on the issue is pending.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen children aged between 5 and 18 years have been living here with some adults (one of them says he's the DWB appointed imam for the Masjid) for more than a year. During this time, they have installed electrical fittings and hammered nails into the walls.
The latest in the series of defacing alterations at the monument is a row of toilets built inside the courtyard of the monument and two rooms covered with tin sheets beside the monuments eastern entrance.
When Hindustan Times visited the place, a woman who gave her name only as Shahnaz said, "These rooms were built some 7-8 months ago."
When HT had raised the issue earlier, a Wakf board official, requesting anonymity, had said that this and some other properties were notified in 1970 under the Central Wakf Act and so were Wakf property."
Delhi government sources said the Department of Archaeology is busy with the conservation, illumination and landscaping of 17 monuments near the Commonwealth Games venues. With time running out and their hands full, the hearing of DWB's objections has been put on the backburner by the Department.
Keshav Chandra, Director, State Department of Archaeology, said, "We'll hold the hearing after the Games." He refused to say anything else.
Matin Ahmed, former DWB chairman, criticized the alterations by the occupants. "The Wakf Board gave permission to conduct prayers at this and other monuments. People should neither live there nor carry out any kind of alterations."
But Ahmed did not say anything about how to stop the defacement.
Incidentally, answering a question asked in Parliament about encroachments at protected monuments, the Department had said that there were only six monuments notified and that all were free of encroachments.
The Department conveniently chose to mention all such encroached sites, for which preliminary notification has been issued.