It isn’t just Noor Masjid incident in Jangpura that has seen Friday prayers turn into a dispute because of ownership of land. Several heritage monuments in the city have witnessed similar situation.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the custodian of heritage monuments, has admitted in reply to a query under Right to Information (RTI) Act that there are a dozen monuments under its Delhi circle that witnesses Friday prayers in an unauthorised manner.
In reply to a query by Afroz Aalam Sahil, an RTI activist from Batla House, Jamia Nagar, the ASI has submitted a list of 12 monuments under its protection wherein Friday prayers are held in unauthorised manner against the provision of the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 and Rules 1959 (AM & ASR Act 1958 and Rules 1959).
This Act was amended last year.
The list includes heritage monuments like Nili Masjid, Qutb Mosque (inside the Qutb premises), Palam Mosque, Razia Sultan’s tomb, Jami Masjid inside Kotla Firozshah complex, Sunehari Masjid, just outside the Red Fort, Safdarjung mosque and Khairul Manzil mosque among others.
There are 174 monuments and heritage structures under the ASI. Of these, the agency claimed only 30 could be termed religious structures. “Out of these 30, prayers were organised at the time of notification at only three monuments — Palam Mosque, Nili Masjid and Sunehari Masjid,” the ASI said on December 27, 2010.
The reply is significant in wake of the Jangpura incident last week wherein there was a spurt in violence and the area was on the brink of violence following demolition of an allegedly illegal mosque on land belonging to Delhi Development Authority (DDA) following a Delhi High Court order.
Said Sahil, the RTI applicant, “There are a number of cases/disputes owing to Friday prayers. I wanted to analyse it to study community matters in view of the dispute between Wakf Board and the ASI.” “Under the AM&ASR Act 1958 and Rules 1959, prayers or any kind of worship is allowed at any protected monument only if the same was being held at the time of notification. We go by the land of the law,” said ASI director general Gautam Sengupta.