More than 20 years after right-wing activists demolished the Babri Masjid, other mosques and Muslim shrines in the city still wear scars of the day’s violence. Twenty-two mosques and dozens of shrines were damaged in mob attacks on December 6, 1992, but repairs have been blocked by the district administration.

One of the mosques in question is the Dorahi Kuan Masjid, located close to the disputed site. The mosque, according to its caretaker Mushtaq Ahmed, resembled the Babri.

On December 6, 1992, Ahmed and his family had a close shave as they were evacuated to Faizabad in an ambulance, but kar sevaks brought down the wall enclosure, the main door and all three domes of the mosque, leaving only the middle wall standing. On his return to Ayodhya four months later, Ahmed tried to repair the mosque but was reportedly prevented by the administration, which cited official rules.

Despite repeated requests by residents and social workers, no repairs have so far been allowed to the mosques damaged by kar sevaks. The administration does not allow even temporary measures to protect the Dorahi Kuan Masjid: whenever locals spread a tin sheet over it (as roof) during rain, it was removed within hours.

Local authorities have cited various reasons for their decision over the years, ranging from municipal rules to fear of communal flare-ups. Resident Magistrate A.K. Mishra said there was “no standing order from the local administration” or any “specific rules” banning repairs to the mosques.

When it was pointed out that repairs were not being allowed, he said: “It needs to be seen if it’s a matter of enquiry.”

Some residents allege that the administration is under pressure from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which recently passed a resolution that no new mosque be constructed within the “cultural boundary” (272 km) of Ayodhya, the route of last year’s controversial ‘84-Kosi Parikrama.’ They also said no mosque within the range of the disputed site could be called by the name of Babar.

Repairs opposed

VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma argues that the mosques, including the Dorahi Kuan, were khandars (dilapidated) and there were “restrictions on their repair since the 1930s.” He added that while the VHP was demanding a no-mosque zone within the “cultural boundary” of Ayodhya, it was the administration that laid down the restrictions. Residents, however, refute the VHP’s claims and say the mosque was functional till 1992. Prayers are still held at the site.

VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders and the former BJP MP, Ramdas Vedanti, recently submitted a petition to District Magistrate Vipin Dwivedi, calling for an end to construction of, or repairs to, mosques.

The right-wing groups alleged that any construction close to the disputed site was a security threat and part of a conspiracy to construct a full-fledged mosque at the disputed site. The Dorahi Kuan Masjid also obstructed the view of the Ramkot Parikrama, they stressed.

Locals back rebuilding

Yugal Saran Kishore Shastri, head priest of the Saryu Kunj temple and a former RSS pracharak, alleges that the ban on repairs exposed the administration’s “communal bent of mind.” “Muslims have the right to construct or repair their places of worship. The locals have no issue with it.”

While locals are content with just repairs to the damaged structures, the administration is not permitting even that. For most part till last year, the administration maintained that there were rules prohibiting repairs. However, the Uttar Pradesh Home Ministry said in reply to an RTI question that there were “no such rules.”

Athar Shamsi, a Faizabad advocate who filed the application, alleges that “it’s clearly part of a conspiracy. The administration is working on the instructions of the VHP, and non-existing laws are being invoked to stop the maintenance of, and repairs to, mosques, dargahs and kabristans (cemeteries).”

He also rubbished the administration’s argument that the repairs would lead to communal tension. “When the same reasons were cited for the Godiyana mosque, whose repair was also abruptly stopped, the majority community submitted a no-objection letter to the administration,” says Mr. Shamsi.