A mosque is a mosque for ever. It cannot be changed or altered in regard to its use or function. This is the principle that cannot and should not be compromised notwithstanding the circumstances. If, in some given circumstances, prayers are not offered or not allowed to offer in any mosque, it is the duty of both the government as well as the community to restore prayers over there. It is thus in the fitness of things that the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has urged the government to allow prayers in mosques which are currently under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and where no prayer has been offered for decades.
In Delhi alone there are as many as 31 mosques which have been declared ‘protected monuments’. ASI officials maintain that prayers would continue only in those mosques where prayers were already happening at the time when they were declared protected monuments. When this rule was frozen, there were three such mosques in Delhi – Palam Mosque, Neeli Masjid and Sunehri Masjid, where prayers are still allowed. Besides these three mosques, there are nine mosques such as those in Kotla Ferozeshah, Safdarjung Tomb and Purana Qila where according to the ASI prayers are ‘illegally’ offered.
In his letter to the Ministry of Culture, the NCM Chairman Wajahat Habibullah has asked the ASI to carry out a survey to find out whether these monuments are being maintained properly. On the basis of the ASI survey report, NCM would consider whether to involve local communities, who would like to participate if prayers are allowed there. The NCM has made it clear that even in this case of allowing prayers in these mosques it is ASI that would set the standards. However, the NCM also wants the ASI to assess the upkeep in mosques where prayers are offered ‘illegally’ to ascertain whether these have suffered any damage as opposed to those monuments where prayers are not held. This request of the NCM is very important as it would defy the ASI contention that allowing prayers in protected mosques would be fraught with danger.
These mosques are called ‘protected’; this protection should be in the interest of mosques. The ASI should repair and maintain these mosques and protect them from any adverse possession. And as the primary function of a mosque is to provide space for believers to offer prayers, the believers should be allowed to offer prayers there. Now, when at the behest of NCM, the Ministry of Culture has woken up and taken steps, we hope the Union Government would fulfil this long overdue demand of Indian Muslims by allowing prayers in these mosques.