While illegal shanties are demolished by the Delhi authorities, illegal places of worship flourish unchecked
In the mid 1990s I was working with Home TV, the company offices were in Green Park and the studios at Khanpur. It is during this time that I got to explore different parts of Khanpur village and other places in the neighbourhood.
There was Sangam Vihar, Batra Hospital, Hamdard University and Tughlaqabad in one direction, while Sainik Farms, the old village of Saiyad-ul-Ajaib and IGNOU spread out in another. I was then living near Katwaria Sarai and drove through Hauz Rani, Saket, Khirki, and the area now known officially as the Saket District Centre, while those who throng the area to watch films, eat at the food plaza and to window shop, call it the Select City Walk.
Over these years both the landscape and the skyline have changed drastically. Strange glass and metal structures, without any rhyme or reason and no architectural aesthetic to speak of have sprouted suddenly inside the area earmarked as the district centre.
This piece is however not about the total absence of a visible and perceptible plan for the district centre, but about another interesting development that took place in this area as DDA began to sell off parts of the lands acquired from the residents of Hauz Rani and Khirki villages.
One of the first plots to be auctioned was the piece of land where Hotel Marriot was to come up. Even as land was being measured and a boundary marked, a small building in the adjacent plot began suddenly to expand and expand with great speed; this small building was an old mosque, probably with a history, though the structure that existed at the time did not look like an ancient or even a medieval period structure. Be that as it may, this structure suddenly began to expand and its boundary wall was extended to reach the link road that connects the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road to the Press- Enclave road.
And so even before Marriot Hotel could throw-up its boundary wall, it was clearly demarcated on one side because the mosque boundary wall had come up to demarcate itself. Today the structure is Known as Jama Masjid Saket, a Madrasa, called Madrasa Behr-ul-Uloom also functions from the premises. The fact that the mosque is not known as Jama Masjid Khirki or Jama Masjid Hauz Rani would seem to suggest that it came up after the South Delhi Colony of Saket that the mosque faces had already come up. And it certainly had by the mid- 1990s.
In fact, the inspiration for this expansionism was also drawn from the colony across the road because across the road and a little closer to the street that turns into Saket, there is the Shree Sanatan Dharm Mandir, Saket. The temple has clearly and most blatantly encroached upon government land, on the pavement in fact, to build this place for devotees to the lord.
So on both sides of the road there are these two structures, each attracting their respective flock to pray for deliverance and each one of them doing it on land that has been acquired through means not entirely above board.
Do Gods accept the prayers of those who operate from usurped properties is a question that would be answered on the day of judgment, whenever that happens. Meanwhile, the encroachers have a field day because the secular state permits every denomination to take over the tax payers’ property to start activities on which they do not pay any tax.
These two are mere examples to illustrate this large scale scam in real estate that goes on unhindered, each religion and each sect is involved in it. Those who are more numerous do it more often and those that do not have the numbers everywhere, do it where they can. A temple has come up opposite Secular House, the location has its own irony, at one end of Aruna Asif Ali Marg. The excuse, the presence of a Peepal tree, another is coming up along the same road, the excuse this time is not even a Peepal tree, just a bump on the pavement. The authorities go around demolishing illegal shanties, why do they allow these illegal places of worship to spring up everywhere and why doesn’t anyone take action?