A huge dome-shaped white marble piece of a minaret has fallen off at the northern entrance of the 17th century Jama Masjid. The piece was big enough to create a dent in parts of the red sandstone stairs below. No one was hurt in the incident.
The marble piece broke and fell around 7am on Tuesday and when HT visited the spot on Friday, the rubble lay scattered near the gate even as the mosque was full of people.
On Tuesday, Mohammad Arshad was sitting near Gate number 3 of the grand mosque when he heard a loud thud. He found this dome-shaped minaret on the stairs. "It was early, so there were not many people around. Otherwise, someone could have been hurt," said Arshad, who mans gate number 3.
A similar minaret near the southern gate had fallen in 1992. But the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had repaired and put it back.
Jama Masjid gets a large number of visitors, especially foreign tourists, every day apart from regular devotees.
Delhi government's Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) is working on redevelopment of the Jama Masjid precincts. The decision to fund the project was taken a few months back. But a court case and the redevelopment plans both have been dragging on for over two years.
"However, the actual maintenance of the main structure remains with the ASI," said OP Jain, one of the directors of the SRDC.
But the mosque is not an ASI-protected structure. It was at the behest of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that an arrangement was put in place. The ASI was assigned to take care of the conservation and preservation work for the main structure and the integrated finance department of the government foots the bill."
"ASI staff visit the mosque from time to time or the mosque authorities inform the ASI in case there is some damage," said ASI spokesperson BR Mani.
The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, said the mosque needs 5-7 years of repair works on a daily basis to avoid these kinds of accidents. "The government should save the Jama Masjid," he said.