The nation celebrates the freedom fighter's 125 birth anniversary

As the nation celebrates the 125 birth anniversary of freedom fighter Maulana Azad, his mausoleum near the historic Jama Masjid lays in a neglected state, surrounded by squatters.

Speaking to The Hindu, heritage activist Firoz Bakht Ahmed, also grand nephew of Maulana Azad, said: “If we compare the mausoleum of Maulana Azad with the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, it is in a pathetic state. Let us not forget that during the Partition, Maulana called upon fellow Muslims and persuaded them not to cross over to Pakistan through his famous couplet.”

Noting that Maulana was a major contributor to the Indian freedom movement, Mr. Ahmed said: “Following my PIL in the Delhi High Court in 2005 to open the lock of the mazar and prevent illegal squatters from encroaching the walls of the mazar, the then Justice Vijender Jain ordered the mausoleum to open and beautify it for visitors at the Jama Masjid complex… But today the mazar is in a deplorable state. The place where Maulana Azad delivered his historic “Quit India” address to the nation has now become a haven for drug addicts and anti-social elements.”

On a black marble a part of Maulana’s historic address of 1940 has been inscribed: “I am proud of being an Indian. I am part of the invisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensible to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure of India is incomplete. I am essential element which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.”

The mazar of the country’s first Education Minister is surrounded by street vendors selling bags, T-shirt, shirts, jeans, and shoes. The stained and damaged red sandstone walls of the mausoleum is a reflection of government’s apathy towards its conversation.

Mohammad, a vendor who hails from Bihar, sells garments right outside the mausoleum. “We know this is the mazar of Maulana Azad, an iconic figure. But we have to earn our livelihood. On November 11, it is Maulana’s birth anniversary and we have been told by the authorities to stay away that day.”

The vendors allege they have to bribe policemen to allow them to set up shops around the mazar. “Most of them pay a monthly amount ranging from Rs.10,000 to Rs. 20,000. So, they work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily to pay this amount to the police,” said one of them. The local police refuted the allegations.

A gardener with the Central Public Works Department, which maintains the mazar, said squatters use the park — where the mazar was built — to rest in the evening.

Stating that the mausoleum is not protected by it because it protects only national monuments, a senior Archaeological Survey of India official said: “A monument has to be 100 years old. So, once the mazar completes a century we might be entrusted with the responsibility of its upkeep.”

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