Construction work stopped; permission to carry out any ritual denied

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation pulled up its socks on Thursday and took possession of the land on which archaeological remains of a Mughal-era structure were discovered recently. Scores of visitors walk in and out of this erstwhile Delhi Metro railway construction site at Subhas Park that turned into a religious hot spot after it was believed to be the remains of the 17 Century Akbarabadi Masjid.

The move followed Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal’s decision to build a new mosque at the site above the original stone wall. This decision taken independently from the land owning authority, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has received a lot of flak with rumours of demolitions doing the rounds on Thursday.

“We have taken possession of the land and no decision has been taken on demolition of the new constructions. We will concentrate on the Jama Masjid Redevelopment Plan (JMRP),” said a senior NDMC official, adding the land under question falls part of the civic body’s JMRP but the plan has been pending for almost a decade.

Naturally, a day before the month of Ramzan begins, the matter is seen as a “sensitive issue” by NDMC officials who met Mr. Iqbal on Thursday morning to discuss the new constructions. “The construction has stopped and the civic body has granted permission to continue namaz at the site,” said Mr. Iqbal following the meeting.

However, minutes of the meeting allude to the opposite – “…the North Delhi Municipal Corporation has declined to grant any permission to any party to carry out any religious ritual at the site in question, till a proper decision is taken in this regard by the appropriate authority at the appropriate forum.”

However, NDMC’s Standing Committee Chairman, Yogender Chandolia has asked that the Lieutenant-Governor intervene and direct the Commissioner (North) to remove encroachments from the site. He also said that the NDMC is going to develop areas around heritage buildings of Jama Masjid and Red Fort for which a detailed plan has been prepared.

Outside Subhas Park, however, a large banner of a smiling Shoaib Iqbal, welcomes you to the “Akbarabadi Masjid” while simultaneously praising him for the discovery. The excavation that has prompted such religious fervour is based on the premise that the remains are in fact the Akbarabadi mosque.

While the Archaeological Survey of India is categorical in its observation that several texts have suggested the existence of the mosque and its subsequent destruction but that there is no inconclusive proof that the excavated remains is actually the mosque, Mr. Iqbal says he should be given an award for this discovery.

“The Archaeological Survey of India has already played its role in this whole affair. We have already examined the area and submitted a report stating that although the excavated remains belong to the Mughul period, we cannot ascertain that the site was once the Akbarabadi Masjid,” said ASI Delhi Circle Superintending Archaeologist Dr. D.N. Dimri. “It was ascertained by us that the walls were once an enclosure of sorts that is all.

There was a projection on the western wall which might have led people to believe that it was once a mosque”

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