Petitioners told the National Commission for Minorities that they were being denied the right to pray at some mosques.

The Archaeological Survey of India has launched a survey to study 31 mosques in the Capital and to assess whether there is any damage to their structure. It will submit a comprehensive report to the Union Culture Ministry over the upkeep of these mosques within the next “15 to 20 days”.

A senior ASI official said the department is making a list of mosques where prayers are offered and those where they are not.“The entire exercise of identifying these mosques, which are maintained by us, has kicked off in right earnestness. We have succeeded in studying a couple of mosques so far. Our full-scale survey will start only after the conclusion of Ramzan this Friday,” the official said.

On the encroachment in mosques, the ASI official said some people have installed air-conditioners, speakers and microphones inside the premises.

What propelled the ASI, which comes under the Union Culture Ministry’s jurisdiction, to start this massive exercise was an order by Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch.

Two months ago, National Commission for Minorities (NCM) chairperson Wajahat Habibullah met Ms. Katoch and requested her to enable namazis to pray at mosques where so far prayers have not been offered.

“This move to allow adherents of Islam to offer prayers in mosques in the Capital where no namaz had been offered has compelled the ASI to start the survey,” the official said.

According to Mr. Habibullah, the NCM has received a number of complaints from residents of various colonies across the Capital on this issue.

“We want the local population to pray in mosques where namaz is not being offered so that they can become stakeholders in the mosque’s conservation. This move will also help in decongesting popular masjids where a multitude of namazis come. Also, some of the mosques which are cash-strapped can get funds for conservation efforts.”

The NCM chairman has received a petition from people of all walks of life that they have repeatedly been denied permission to pray at mosques. He wants the ASI to expeditiously submit the report. He also wants illegal storage of goods and even goats and other animals inside the premises of mosques to be stopped.

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