Despite a ban imposed by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation on performing any religious rituals at Subhas Park in New Delhi, hundreds of people offered Friday namaz in and around the disputed site where archaeological remains of a Mughal-era structure were discovered.

Pilgrims led by Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal swarmed to the site which is believed to house the remains of the 17 Century Akbarabadi Masjid despite the Delhi High Court ordering the civic body to cordon off the area with the help of the local police. Referring to the rumours relating to the demolition of constructions that have come up at the site, Mr. Iqbal said while addressing the crowd: “Will you allow this mosque to be demolished?” His question was met with vehement opposition from the crowd.

Despite heavy police presence in the area, officials of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) blame inaction on the police in carrying out the Court orders. “We are dependent on the police to cordon off the area,” said NDMC Municipal Commissioner P.K. Gupta. “The police are discussing the situation on how to seal the area and keep it under protection,” he added.

For their part, the Delhi Police have said that the High Court orders have been received and they will ensure they follow the directions. However, there was no further elaboration on what security measures will be put in place.

Meanwhile, the ward committee of the City Zone, under which the disputed site falls, met on Friday afternoon and passed a resolution in favour of the mosque. “The majority of the ward committee members passed a resolution in favour of rebuilding the masjid,” said its chairman Aaley Mohammad Iqbal, son of Mr. Iqbal, adding a letter in this regard has been forwarded to the Commissioner. “The MCD can transfer the land to the Akbarabadi Masjid Committee headed by Shoaib Iqbal that will look into rebuilding the mosque. There is a provision that allows such transfer of land,” he said. The ward committee has also passed a resolution that the civic body should not halt constructions and all items excavated from the site will remain on the site.

North Delhi Mayor Mira Aggarwal said a meeting was held with Lieutenant-Governor Tejender Khanna and action will be taken based on the High Court’s direction. “The Court has directed the North Corporation to immediately hand over the site to the Archaeological Survey of India to ascertain the relevance of the structure,” she said, adding if the Court directs the civic body to demolish the structure, it will abide by the order. However, Ms. Aggarwal blamed the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for not intimating the civic body earlier on the excavations unearthed at the Delhi Metro railway’s construction site at Subhas Park. “It was only earlier this week that the DMRC wrote to the NDMC asking the civic body to take possession of the land.”

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