Syed Khalique Ahmed & Masihuzzama Ansari | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—AAP MLA and Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) chairman Amanatullah Khan on Wednesday thwarted the bid to occupy and the demolish the Lal Masjid in upmarket Lodhi Road area where Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is constructing a huge office complex.
As the Lal Masjid, which is said to be around 200 years old and finds mention in Delhi government’s official gazette, is located near Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, there was tension in the area after the police inspector of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Police Station asked the mosque staff to vacate the premises as it would be demolished for handing over its land to CRPF.
Though the mosque is being legally looked after by the Delhi Waqf Board, the latter never appointed any staff, including Imam or muezzin, to look after the mosque. The board also never put any signboard on the mosque claiming that the mosque is the property of the waqf board. However, after Wednesday’s incident, Delhi Waqf Board appointed a muezzin for the mosque and is now in the process of inducting Imam of the mosque, Mohammed Ilyas, on its official staff. The mosque was till now practically run by one Habibur Rahman of Hazrat Nizamuddin area and after the latter’s death a few years ago, it is being looked after by his widow Nafisa.
In fact, neglect of the mosque by the waqf board became the reason for the Land and Development Officer (LDO) of the Union Ministry of Urban Affairs to allot 2.33 acres of Waqf land, including a graveyard and Lal Masjid, for construction of CRPF offices, barracks, canteen and parking on February 25, 2017. The Waqf Board that should have swung into action immediately, took five months to lodge a complaint with the police. In its complaint with Hazrat Nizamuddin Police on July 29, 2017, the waqf board said that the plots allotted to CRPF have been shown in Delhi government gazette of December 31, 1971 as graveyard and Lal Masjid under Khasra No 360 and 361 and hence, any trespass or construction activity be stopped on these plots. Currently, the case about the graveyard and the Lal Masjid is pending in the Delhi Waqf Tribunal though CRPF has already begun construction on the graveyard and has also occupied parts of the Lal Masjid, including its toilet block. CRPF has also blocked its main entry from the southern side.
Speaking to India Tomorrow, Mohammed Salim, a tea vendor, who looks after the mosque in the absence of the Imam, said that Station House Officer (SHO) and some policemen visited the mosque around 9.30 am on Wednesday and said that the mosque would be demolished for making space for the CRPF office. “I called up Imam Sahib and the latter immediately informed about the development to Mrs Nafisa”, said Salim.
Mohammed Ilyas, who works as Imam of Lal Masjid, said that Nafisa managed to contact AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan and the latter rushed to the mosque around 12 noon. Ilyas, who has been working as Imam in the mosque for the last 20 years, has never been paid his salaries by the waqf board. Earlier, he was paid his salary by Habibur Rahman and now, he is paid his salary by Nafisa.
AAP MLA told mediapersons that “the Lal Masjid has been in existence much before 1947 and is a waqf property. It is also mentioned in the official gazette of the Government of Delhi. A case about it is already pending in the Waqf Tribunal. And hence, it can’t be demolished till the final judgement of the Tribunal”. He also said that the waqf board was contemplating to take the matter to Delhi High Court.
Similar attempts to occupy the Lal Masjid was made twice in the past as well-in 2017 and 2019. However, on both occasions, Amanatullah Khan and the then Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan came to its defence. DMC had issue notices to CRPF, asking the latter not to occupy the graveyard and the mosque that are waqf properties.