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Proposal to build Lakshman statue outside Lucknow mosque sparks controversy

The Nagar Nigam’s decision that is being seen as an attempt to establish Lucknow-Lakshman connect.City historians said it was difficult to establish the connect as there were no evidences or that suggested Teele Wali Masjid was built in place of Lakshman Teela.

lucknow Updated: Jul 01, 2018 13:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Lucknow,Teele Wali Masjid,Hindus
Both Shia and Sunni clerics are unanimous that installation of a Lakshman statue at a crossing outside Teele Wali Masjid would inconvenience namazis and visitors to a nearby ‘mazar.’(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)

The Lucknow Nagar Nigam’s proposal to install a grand statue of Lord Ram’s younger brother Lakshman at a crossing outside one of the oldest and most prominent mosques of the city, the Teele Wali Masjid, has stirred a hornet’s nest.

Prior to this, BJP veteran Lalji Tandon’s book Ankaha Lucknow, which accused Muslims of severing the city’s connect with the younger brother of Lord Ram, had also triggered a controversy. The book said that the state capital’s biggest Sunni mosque, built during the reign of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, was constructed over Lakshman Teela, a raised platform believed to be named after Lord Ram’s brother.

However, mayor Sanyukta Bhatia said though the Nagar Nigam had cleared the proposal to install the statue, the place of installation would be finalised after fresh discussions with the corporators (including Muslims) in the LMC house and a decision would be taken collectively.

The Nagar Nigam’s decision that is being seen as an attempt to establish Lucknow-Lakshman connect, has created a controversy, not only among clerics but also among historians and residents. Some clerics called it a cheap political gimmick ahead of 2019 elections, while a few strongly opposed the decision, saying ‘namaaz’ could not be offered in front of a statue.

“It’s a cheap political gimmick, ahead of elections. The Nagar Nigam’s decision to install a statue of Lord Ram’s brother is purely an act to start a new controversy. The situation needs immediate intervention of the district magistrate and could lead to breach of peace,” said Maulana Shah Fajlul Mannan, Imam, Teele Wali Masjid.

The Imam said he was not against installation of the statue but the place where it would be installed. He said installation of the statue outside the mosque would cause inconvenience to the namazis and also to the visitors at the ‘mazaar’ of Shah Pir Mohammed, just a few metres away. “Being the biggest mosque, Teelewali Masjid has a huge gathering on Alvida and Eid, covering almost half a kilometre radius. Installation of the statue would cause great inconvenience to the namazis and also to the visitors at the nearby mazaar,” he added.

Some other clerics said that the Nagar Nigam should ensure that religious sentiments of others were not hurt. “The same issue was raised in 1993 also after which the matter was resolved through talks. It’s an appeal to the government to install the statue anywhere else but not in front of Teele Wali Masjid,” a cleric said.

Interestingly, both Shia and Sunni clerics are united on the issue. “The government should intervene into the matter. We don’t oppose installation of the statue but it can be installed on other crossings. Installation here would cause inconvenience to namazis,” said Maulana Saif Abbas, president, Shia Chand Committee.

City historians on their part said it was difficult to establish Lucknow-Lakshman connect as there were no evidences or documents in history that suggested Teele Wali Masjid was built in place of Lakshman Teela. “Nowhere in history is there a mention of the name ‘Lakshman Teela’. In fact, the name is not even mentioned in the first Census, carried out by the British government in Oudh. In Lucknow’s 1000year history, there is no mention of Lakshman Teela,” said Roshan Taqui, noted historian who has penned several books on the state capital’s history.

Some people have also called the Nagar Nigam’s decision a blatant violation of the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court’s order that prohibits installation of statues, hoardings and banners on crossings, citing it as a reason that hampers visibility.

Corporate lawyer S Mohammed Haider cited a 2005 judgement of Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court and said installation of statue or any other structure on crossings was not permitted as it obstructed vision. “As per the judgement, the court had said, ‘Nagar Nigam Lucknow in particular and UP Government and all other authorities , agencies and organisations are restrained from installing in future hoardings, structure of any description on road crossing, road junctions and side land of the road which obstruct or hamper traffic’”, Haider quoted. He said installation of a grand statue at the crossing opposite Teele Wali Masjid would surely obstruct vision and so the Nagar Nigam should find another suitable point.

City mayor Sanyukta Bhatia said, “Lucknow is known by the name of Lakshman Teela. Hence a proposal to install a grand statue of Lakshmanji came in the meeting and was cleared. It was also proposed to install the statue at the crossing opposite Teele Wali Masjid but we are yet to finalise the spot. We will discuss the issue again in the meeting along with all corporators that also include a group of Muslim corporators and take a decision over the place of installation collectively,” she added.

First Published: Jul 01, 2018 13:19 IST