After Akhondji mosque in Mehrauli, DDA targets a century-old Kangal Shah mosque in Dhaulan Kuan

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Shahi Masjid and Madrasa Kangal Shah, Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi.

By Anwarulhaq Baig

NEW DELHI—After illegal demolition of the 800 year-old Akhondji mosque in jungles of Mehrauli, the Delhi Development Authority is contemplating to bulldoze more than a century-old Shahi Masjid Kangal Shah in Dhaula Kuan.

The DDA has filed a petition seeking lifting of the stay against any coercive action against the mosque that was granted on November 2, 2023, by the Delhi High Court.

While hearing the DDA petition on February 14, the high court questioned the DDA under what law it intends to remove the mosque which is on a private property.

Simultaneously, the single judge bench of Justice Sachin Datta, also  issued a notice to the managing committee of the Masjid and the associated Qabristan (cemetery) located near Kitchener Lake, Bagh Mochi, in Dhaula Kuan, instructing it to file a reply within 10 days in response to DDA’s plea.

Justice Datta also asked DDA about the encroachment and whether it includes the mosque, and the basis for contemplating its removal. While directing the DDA to furnish an explanation and details during the next hearing on February 29, the judge asked, ‘Give me the exact dimensions. What is it that you want to remove and why?’

Seeking to remove the Madrasa, the DDA’s counsel argued in the High Court that it was not protected. Justice Datta, however, asked, “Is the Madarsa distinct from the Mosque?”

Earlier, on November 2, 2023, a single judge bench of Justice Prateek Jalan on November 2, directed DDA authorities not to take any coercive action against the mosque until the next hearing on January 31st.

Delhi Administration notifications in 1970 and the Delhi Waqf Board’s communications in the 1990s acknowledged the land ownership, religious status, and usage rights of the mosque and graveyard that have been in operation for over a century.

JIH Assistant Secretary Inamurrahman Khan actively involved in protecting waqf properties including this one, said the mosque, madrasa, dargah, and graveyard are under grave threat of demolition by the Horticulture Department of the DDA on the pretext of having obtained a recommendation from the Religious Committee of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The JIH official confirmed that the Dargah Kangal Shah property, over a century old, is a functioning religious site with regular burials and daily prayers, including Friday congregations. He emphasized that it’s duly registered with the Delhi Wakf Board and cannot be considered unauthorized since it stands on private land within a green zone. Consequently, he claimed that the Religious Committee’s recommendation in this case was “beyond its purview and potentially illegal.”

The cemetery within the premises of the Shahi Masjid Kangal Shah, Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi.

Mr Khan stated that the mosque committee secured a stay order from the Delhi High Court against the demolition. However, the threat persists as the DDA aggressively pursues its vacation through legal representation.

Citing government orders mandated demarcating the property and allowing the construction of a boundary wall and fencing around the mosque and graveyard, he urged the DDA, under the direct authority of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, to cease targeting historical religious structures and comply with previous orders.

Kangal Shah Masjid managing committee’s general secretary Haji Yunus, who is the petitioner and associated with the mosque for 30 years, stated that the waqf property comprising a Mosque, Madrasa, Dargah, and Graveyard is nearly 200 years old and it has been in continuous use for religious purposes, where namaz is offered, and burials are performed by the Muslims of the area. Providing the history of the mosque, Haji Yunus referred to it as a Mughal-era mosque. He mentioned that Sufi saint Kangal Shah, whose tomb and Dargah are situated inside the premises, constructed the mosque.

Madrasa within the premises of the Shahi Masjid Kangal Shah, Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi

Advocate Pramveer Singh, who sent the legal notice to the DDA in October 2023 on behalf of the mosque’s managing committee, said, “The Shahi Masjid Kangal Shah, Dargah Kangal and Qabristan have existed in their present location since prior to 1913 as per government records.” According to him, the Mussalman Wakf Validating Act, 1913 enacted during the British Raj legally validated the mosque’s land, categorized as a waqf property used for religious worship and burials.

Clarifying that the entire Waqf property occupies two khasra numbers, he explains that the mosque, madrasa, and Dargah are located at Khasra No. 560/180, measuring 150×50 square feet while the adjacent graveyard is located at Khasra No. 293 and measures 5 Bigha 8 Biswa which were also notified in government notifications in 1970 and 1976.

Undermining the government’s claims, Advocate Singh asserted that it was the DDA itself that authorized and built a boundary wall for the mosque in 150×50 square feet in 1991-1992.

Contrasting the DDA claims, especially related to the madrasa, arguing that it was built later on encroached land and thus deemed illegal, Advocate Singh, along with Haji Yunus, unanimously asserted that the madrasa stood inside the same boundary wall built by the DDA on the mosque’s 150×50 square feet land. Advocate Singh stated that the Madarsa was part and parcel of 150×50 sq. ft. khasra no. 560/180.

Providing details about the Madrasa and mosque, Advocate Singh argued, “If this land truly belongs to the DDA, why then did the officials involved in the demolition proceedings on March 16, 2011, with the assistance of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, S.H.O. Dhula Kuan, not take possession of the 150×50 sq. ft. plot? This suggests that even the officials were aware that this land does not belong to their department.” Notably, the demolition did not encompass the 150×50 sq. ft. mosque land, on which the Madrasa, established in 2003 and recognized by the Delhi Wakf Board in 2004, is located as the land is within the premises of Delhi Wakf Board land.

Haji Yunus alleged that the DDA is acting arbitrarily and without legal basis, ignoring over a hundred years old historical records and government acknowledgment of the waqf property.

Haji Yunus, through his lawyer Advocate Fuzail Ayyubi, also submitted to the High Court that two government notifications recognize the waqf property. The first, published in the Delhi Gazette on December 31, 1970, lists “Masjid Bagh Mochi” in Rural Villages as over 100 years old, admeasuring 150×50 square feet while the second, published on December 30, 1976, under the Wakf Act, 1954, includes the Graveyard in the waqf property, admeasuring 5 Bigha 8 Biswa, over 3 acres.

The mosque managing committee, in its petition argued that the Religious Committee directive requires complete details. However, authorities neglected to provide several key details in this case. Firstly, the Khasra No. column was left blank, and secondly, while earlier notifications from the 1970s acknowledged the waqf property as “over 100 years” old, the government merely described it as “old.” Despite these discrepancies, the petition said that the Religious Committee surprisingly accepted the proposal, contradicting its own guidelines.

The petition contended that the DDA claims ownership of the land based on internal transfers, contradicting previous acknowledgments of the waqf property’s existence.

While the Indian Army once possessed the surrounding area of the mosque and graveyard, they later transferred it to the DDA’s Horticultural department for developing reserved forest land. Citing previous court proceedings, Advocate Singh clarified that despite this transfer, the waqf property itself, duly demarcated, was never transferred to the Army or any other government agency. Both the Army and the government authorities admitted this fact in the court earlier. He emphasized that the transfer of surrounding land cannot create ownership rights over the waqf property, whose title rests with the Almighty Allah.

The high court in its 2009 order recorded the Indian Army stance as: “On Survey No. 219, an A-1 land owned by the Government of India and under the Military Authorities, it was established that the land where the mosque is situated was only private land. The Government/Military Authorities did not claim any right over this land.”

The petition highlights that the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Delhi Cantonment, who previously cleared encroachments and handed over waqf land to the mosque committee, now ordered a survey with DDA on September 14, 2023, paving the way for potential demolition of the mosque and madrasa.

Stating that the Religious Committee has no authority to demolish their property, the petition contends that the Religious Committee only deals with encroachments on public land, while their land is private and recognized as a waqf property by authorities.  The petitioner further stated that the Waqf Act of 1995 gives exclusive authority to the Waqf Tribunal for disputes involving surveyed waqf properties and prohibits “not only courts, but any authority” including Religious Committee from taking action on such properties.

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