The semi-demolished Qila Masjid at Punjab's Muslim-dominated Malerkotla is waiting for its fate. The masjid committee members are making regular visits to Lok Sabha aspirants so that the masjid could be rebuilt before the polls.
The imam of the masjid, Mustaqueem Afiz, who has been serving the masjid for the last 15 years, said that the masjid was almost 500 years old and it was the only masjid in this region during the time of Maharajas. But now as the this entire quila area is under army land, army officers are saying that they cannot allow the re-construction of this masjid, which is reduced to only four pillars of the old structure and is covered with a tin shed.
"As this is the oldest masjid of this region there are about 300 families who come here to offer namaz. Now we face problem, especially on Jumma (Friday ) as the narrow tinshed could not accommodate all the namajis", he added.
Revealing an old paper to the Hindustan Times, Yasar Hussain, one of the members of the Masjid Committee says, "When the army officers asked us to reveal a document showing the presence of this masjid, I took the information under the RTI Act, which mentions that the masjid was also existed on July 8,1953. My father and grandfather remained regular namajis of this masjid, but we are surprised that why it is not shown in the army map"
Though the RTI paper was difficult to read but Yasar claimed that the paper shows that the masjid was also present before independence and a mufti was working there in 1953 at Rs 20 per month salary.
Masjid committee members are making regular visits to the political stalwarts of the region, requesting them to resume the construction of the masjid, which was stopped by the army last year.
"The army officers, did not stop us when we were demolishing the old structure of the masjid but when we started construction to rebuild the masjid the army stopped the construction work. After our repeated requests to the army officers we were only allowed to cover the remains of the masjid with a tinshed", said Yasar adding that , "Now we want permission so that we could remove the remains of the old masjid and rebuild it with a cement as a number of students also come here for "taleem", besides a big number of the namajis"
Subedar (rtd) Babu Khan, who was striving hard to get the masjid reconstructed said, "I have seen several Muslim army officers coming to this masjid for namaj, but now I don't know what is the problem in rebuilding it"
He said, "We will support the candidate, who will solve this issue before the general poll".
Committee members are claiming that they had raised this issue with all senior politicians, including the chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Lok Sabh MP from Sangrur Vijay Indar Singla said, " First, I will collect information about this issue from the masjid committee and from army officers and only then I could say something on it".
Rajya Sabha MP and SAD lok sabha aspirant from Sangrur, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said "I am not aware about this issue. Now I will visit Malerkotla to know the status of this masjid", .
"Politicians may give assurance to masjid committee, but the structure is under the army land and they cannot be allowed to rebuild it", said a senior army officer, requesting anonymity. However, the SDO of the Defence Estate Office could not be contacted for the comment.