Abdul Bari Masoud | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI/ BARABANKI (UP)—In an utter violation of the Allahabad High court orders, Barabanki district administration two days ago bulldozed a 100-year-old mosque situated near tehsil compound at Ramsnehi Ghat in the district.
The UP Sunni Central Wakf Board and All India Muslim Personal Board condemned the administration’s action in the strongest terms, saying it is one of the most inflammatory actions taken against a Muslim place of worship since the pulling down of the 400-year-old-Babri Mosque by a mob of Hindu radicals in 1992 in the heavy presence of paramilitary forces. They demanded stern action against guilty officials and restoration of the mosque immediately.
The mosque, in a small town of Ramsnehi Ghats, had stood for at least six decades, since the time of British rule, according to documents held by the mosque management committee. The high court explicitly passed orders on April 24 this year that mosque cannot be demolished until May 31 and also asked the administration to submit details about the mosque. The local administration in clear defiance and contempt of the court demolished the mosque. Incidentally, Barabanki district where this mosque was located, about 20 kms from Ayodhya, where Babari Masjid, a 16th century mosque, was demolished by Hindu zealots in full view of paramilitary forces that was deployed to protect the mosque. The Ramsnehi ghat is also just five to six kilometres from the place where the UP government has allotted five acres of land for construction of a mosque complex in lieu of the Babri Masjid whose site in Ayodhya has been given to the Hindu party for building Ram Temple on the Supreme Court orders.
According to those connected with the management of the mosque, police put up barricades in a radius of 1.5k kms of the mosque to prevent Muslims from putting up any resistance. The administration brought JCB machines and bulldozers and pulled down the mosque. The administration had already banned the performance of ‘namaz’(prayers) in the mosque in March this year, stating that the mosque was constructed illegally. Debris of the mosque were disposed of into the adjoining Saryu river, which is also known by the name of river Ghaghra by locals.
A mosque committee member said that the mosque was more than a 100 year old and five times ‘namaz’ was performed in it, including congregational Friday prayers.
He told mediapersons that Muslims were scared and hence, they could not muster courage to oppose the administration. Many people had left their homes for fear of being arrested by the police.
Adarsh Singh, a district magistrate, told mediapersons that he was not aware of demolition of any mosque. He said that what he knew was an illegal structure and a court order had been obtained for its demolition. He refused to say anything else.
The demolition was in violation of an order of the Allahabad High Court issued on April 24, which stated that the mosque building should be protected from any eviction or demolition until May 31.
The mosque’s presence has been contested by the local administration, which on 15 March issued a “show cause” notice to the mosque committee asking it to explain how the building’s location was chosen and citing an intention to demolish it on the grounds that there were illegal structures on the land.
The mosque committee sent a detailed response, including documents demonstrating the building had an electricity connection since 1959, but the local administration did not take the response into official record.
On 18 March, the mosque committee went to the Allahabad high court citing concerns that the mosque faced “imminent demolition”, and an order was given for the local administration to file a reply about the grounds on which it had claimed that the mosque had been illegally built and was obstructing traffic, even though the structure was not on the road.
However, in the following days, the local administration began building a permanent structure to block access to the mosque.
On 19 March, local Muslims were prevented from entering the mosque for Friday prayers, causing tension and protests in the area. About three dozen Muslims, who were protesting, were arrested and put in jail. They still continue to be in jail.
The mosque committee became concerned at the actions of the local administration, and in April filed a petition in the High Court. In a further ruling on 24 April, the high court ordered that “any orders of eviction, dispossession or demolition …shall remain in abeyance until 31.05.21”.
However, the administration went ahead with the demolition of the mosque on May 17. Local Muslims in the area, including members of the mosque committee, said they had gone into hiding over fears that they would be targeted and arrested.
Meanwhile, the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, which is custodian of mosques and waqf properties in the state, has taken prompt notice of the illegal action of the administration. Speaking with this correspondent, Board chairman Zufar Ahmed Faruqi said he strongly condemned the patently illegal and high-handed action of Barabanki district administration, particularly that of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Ramsnehi Ghat, through which they demolished a 100 years old mosque on the pretext of removal of encroachment.
Faruqi said, “This act is against law, misuse of power and in utter violation of the clear orders dated 24.04.2021 passed by the Hon’ble High court”.
Demanding high-level judicial enquiry and action against the guilty officers, UP board chairman said the Waqf Board will immediately approach Allahabad high court demanding restoration of mosque and contempt proceedings against these officials.
Athar Hussain, secretary of the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation assigned the job of developing the mosque complex at Dhannipur, in lieu of the Babari Masjid, also demanded that the mosque demolished at Ramsnehi ghat be rebuilt.
Echoing waqf board’s demand, All India Muslim Personal Board general secretary Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani described the demolition of mosque under heavy security as “criminal act”. He said it is the responsibility of the UP government to rebuild the mosque and to preserve its rubble. He also demanded action against the officials who defied the court orders.