As police remove religious books, material following High Court order

There was high drama in and around Subhas Park in Central Delhi on Saturday as teams of Delhi Police and North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) removed copies of the Koran, other religious material and maimders (on which the Imam sits and heads the prayers on Fridays or Eid) for the Imam from the Akbarabadi mosque site.

The police action came in the wake of a Delhi High Court order on Friday directing the NDMC to cordon off the site where ruins of the Akbarabadi mosque are believed to have been found and hand it over to the Archaeological Survey of India to ascertain the character of the ruins.

Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal, who has been spearheading the campaign to preserve the ruins and build a mosque on it, claimed that Delhi Police and NDMC had violated court orders by removing religious books and material from the site area.

“The High Court had only directed them to cordon off the area, but they came around 10 a.m. and took away all the material. We had about 50-60 copies of the Koran, a maimder and other material at the site around which a wall had been built. So in effect, contempt of court has been committed by them,” he said.

He alleged that the police had turned the place into a cantonment in the name of cordoning it off. “There was very heavy deployment of police and they locked out Subhas Park itself. So no one could even go close to the Akbarabadi mosque,” the MLA said.

Mr. Iqbal said residents have been offering prayers at the site for the last three weeks.

“Even today [on Saturday], the first day of the holy month of Ramzan, we had plans to offer the Maghrib Ki Namaz at the site. So there is a lot of anger among the people because of the police action.”

Following the action by the police and civic body officials, the residents held protests near Subhas Park. The crowd even resorted to mild stone throwing, but no injuries were reported. 

Additional Commissioner of Police (Central) Devesh Srivastava said a large number of people turned up at Subhas Park in the afternoon but they were not allowed to enter the site as per court orders. People kept trickling in from noon to 3 p.m., and there was a minor scuffle with the police deployed at the site, but the situation was prevented from going out of control.

In the meantime, Mr. Iqbal, along with his lawyer M.M. Kashyap, approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions for maintaining status quo at the site.

“We reached the court at 1 p.m. and tried to mention the matter as we wanted an interim order. But we were told that it will be mentioned at 10.30 a.m. on Monday in Court No. 2,” Mr. Kashyap said.

The senior lawyer, who had also appeared in the Babri Masjid matter earlier, said it was a sensitive issue and no changes should be allowed at the site. He said prayers should be allowed to be offered there, and the status quo maintained with respect to religious texts and other material kept there.

In the evening after the Roza Iftaar, a sizeable number of people gathered near Subhas Park again. It was a stand-off kind of situation, which a police official termed as “tense but under control.”

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