By INTIZAR NAEEM
The history of awqaf (plural of waqf) and mosques in Delhi is magnificent and bright; however the brighter their history, the more painful, hurting and provoking is their present dilapidating and ruined condition. Historical mosques in Delhi deserving unusual greatness, particularly those near the Grand Jama Masjid which remained and still remains the centre of attraction for believers and tourists both because of its grandeur, beauty and dignity, received exploitation and cruelty not only at the hands of the British but also by the central and state governments of our independent India that considered it a matter of pride to follow the footsteps of the British.
In 1911, after seizing Delhi, the British made it its capital and launched a fraudulent programme in the name of protection of historical monuments and mosques only to prohibit believers from praying in the mosques. Shrewd and opportunist British leaders claimed that they had keen interest in protection and longevity of the historical monuments, be it of any religion. However they deliberately refused to realise that places of worship, particularly mosques, whether they were old, great or beautiful, are houses of Allah and are meant to say prayers; and prohibition of such noble activities in the name of protection was a major crime and cheap conspiracy. Besides, it was nothing short of looting the large Muslim population of its religious rights and playing with the honour and integrity of Muslims.
Hence the result of the British government’s illegal acquisition of Muslim properties is that various historical mosques from the past one century have been under the adverse possession of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and saying prayers inside them is illegal and a criminal act. A few important mosques in the list released byASIare:
a) Khidki Masjid
b) Begumpur Masjid
c) Masjid Moth
d) Kotla Mubarakpur Masjid
e) Neeli Masjid
f) Moti Masjid Lal Qila
g) Masjid Jamali Kamali
h) Khair-ul-Manazil Masjid
i) Masjid Firoz Shah Wazirabad.
If one offers a prayer in the mosques, coming under the administration ofASI, it is seen as unlawful. And in such cases neighbouring non-Muslims also try to create chaos and express their dislike.
Indian Muslims were sure that with the fall of the British Raj every kind of cruelty, oppression, exploitation and injustice would vanish and in free India they would get equality and justice and their mosques would be restored, however the wind flew in a totally different direction. The leaders of our independent India not only prevented Muslims from praying in the historical mosques, but also considered those Muslims who even went near the structures to be criminals and started legal proceedings against them. ASI that took the mosques under its possession, in the pretext of saving them, left the monuments in a dilapidated state without any effort to save them and never resisted against the illegal occupation of the lands. Some of them turned into hot spots for drunkards and alcoholics, some others turned into playgrounds and yet some others became grazing grounds for cattle.
Begum Puri mosque, under the administration ofASI, whose 24 different areas have been illegally occupied, is one of the examples of illegal occupation. This means except prayers by Muslims, everything else is going on with a good pace.
Generally, educated and experienced people held key positions in the country, however even after 63 years of independence, none bothered to reinstate the authority of all the historical mosques of Delhi into the hands of Muslims, which were meant to perform their daily prayers, by rejecting the unjust laws of the Archaeological Survey. Only a minor change in the law can put an end to the decades of injustice, however its practicality seems out of sight.
Our government has not only made the historical mosques devoid of azan and worshipers, but it has also given an open licence to the government institutions like DDA,ASI,MCD, PWD, etc., to occupy any of the waqf lands and humiliate Muslims. Hence these institutions not only occupied hundreds of waqf lands, including graveyards, but exploitatively used and destroyed them. For example, Delhi Police has built Nabi Kareem Police Station on a waqf graveyard near New Delhi Railway Station. When asked about such grave violations, the authorities generally tend to give snappish replies which add to the woes. All these grave violations have been taking place in connivance with the Waqf Board, its members, government officials, etc. Many of the members associated with Delhi Waqf Board have given waqf lands to their relatives, friends and family members on lease or rent. Illegal occupations of waqf lands in Delhi are as follows:
Archaeological Survey of India: 172
Delhi Cantonment: 7
Delhi Police: 2
Jal Board: 1
Department of Health: 1
Illegal occupation from common people: All across the city.
These illegal occupations by government institution are taking place right under the nose of the central government; however we never hear any news where government officials express concern about the safety of waqf lands. The present vice-chairman of DDA has been found to be elusive of answering as to why they have unlawfully acquired 10 acres out of 14 acres of land inside the Millennium Park on the Ring Road. Kamal Nath, the city’s Development Minister is also keeping mum over the issue.
Another shocking and heart-rending news, which most of the readers won’t be aware of, is that the grand Jama Masjid, where thousands of people gather to pray and which is one of the symbols of secular India, is surrounded from all the four sides by waqf mosques illegally occupied either by individuals or by authorities. From the past 30 years Waqf Board has been reminded continuously to wake up and act, however the Board never took any corrective step. Waqf Board never bothered to think about reclaiming the lost lands and mosques. Once Burney Committee was formed to check illegal possession and it came out with the report after putting in a lot of efforts, yet nothing was done.
After the partition of the country when the non-Muslims realised that there is no one to take care of the mosques and there is no one who can question them, they went berserk and destroyed mosques and turned them into residential places, industries or business houses. The government never took any step to oust the people from the holy places. This issue never became the topic of discussion of any Rishi Muni, sage, swami or any other non-Muslim organisation. Illegal occupations never awakened their conscience that they must provoke the followers of their religion to give away the lands and mosques of their brothers who are living with them in the same nation. The sorrier situation is that adjacent to the mosques they have started building temples, yet the religious leaders of the majority community played the role of silent spectators.
To whom should we complain against the indifference and injustice meted out to Muslims with regard to adverse possession of waqf lands? Allah’s houses are getting razed, they are longing for prostrations yet Muslims do not care about it. Their personal greed has made them indifferent to the responsibility they owe to protect the houses of Allah. It is sad to say that there are hardly any individuals who went to the offices of Waqf Board in order to render their service to protect the waqf lands.
It is for sure that if, like Muslims of some past generations, Muslims had paid heed to the need of the waqf and worked for the restoration and reclaiming of the lands, they would have kept the Waqf Board on their toes and the situation would have been different from the one that we are in. The waqf lands which have been on rent are also in a situation of pity as tenants, for long, have not even paid the nominal rents they are supposed to.
However, seeing the brighter side of the picture, we must acknowledge that there is still much that we can do. If Muslims wake up from their slumber and with full conviction decide to work in order to alleviate waqf from illegal occupations, there is a lot that can be done. We definitely can, to a larger extent, save and secure the lands of the waqf.
What we need to do is: