Ayodhya mosque, an unfinished tale

Work on the masjid on the allocated land is in limbo due to administrative hurdles, despite relentless efforts by a Wakf Board-appointed panel

Updated - February 26, 2023 06:57 pm IST

Published - February 25, 2023 08:06 pm IST - Ayodhya

The site allotted for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya district of Uttar Pradesh

The site allotted for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya district of Uttar Pradesh | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Over three years after the ‘settlement’ of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, the mosque awaits administrative clearances before a brick can be laid. Parallelly, across the Sarayu river, on its main bank, the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will see visitors enter the sanctum sanctorum by the end of the year.

In November 2019, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court permitted the construction of a temple in Ayodhya, at the site where the 16th century Babri Masjid once stood, after being brought down by Hindu fundamentalist groups. In the same order of over 1,000 pages, the top court had asked the government — either the Centre or Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) — to allot a “prominent and suitable” 5-acre plot in Ayodhya to the Sunni Central Wakf Board, to construct a mosque. “This should be done simultaneously with the transfer of the property to the proposed trust [for the temple],” the order had said.

Various hoops

In February 2020, the U.P. government allotted the plot to the Sunni Central Wakf Board in Dhannipur, about 25 km from the temple site. The Wakf Board then constituted a committee, called the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF), to take care of the construction of the mosque, named Masjid-e-Ayodhya.

“Even after the allotment of the land, nothing moved forward,” said an IICF member, on the condition of anonymity. “We never got land at a prominent site. It’s on the outskirts of the city,” the member said. He added that the first hurdle was the approval of the plans, which, besides the mosque spread across over 4,500 square metres, included a hospital, community kitchen, library, and a research centre dedicated to Maulvi Ahmadullah Shah, a freedom fighter, who took part in the 1857 war of independence against the British. The zero-carbon-footprint design is by Prof. S.M. Akhtar, the founder dean of the faculty of architecture and ekistics at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi.

The trust submitted the design plans to the Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA), along with the required fees. Members waited for months, only to be informed that the submissions had to be done online. “We applied online as well but then got to know that we needed to get no-objection certificates (NOC) from various departments for final approval of the design. This entire process took over a year’s time,” said the member. The mosque committee managed most of the NOCs, but the fire department refused to issue one, saying the road outside should be at least 12 metres wide.

Agricultural land

Arshad Afzaal Khan, a trustee of IICF based in Ayodhya, decided to double his efforts. After work, Mr. Khan, in his late 40s, would go to the mosque site daily, travelling almost 50 km. He’d visit the ADA office, DM’s office, and other departments to get the paperwork done. Mr. Khan requested the ADA to widen the roads, but as this was being considered, another hurdle came up.

“Over five months ago, I was told that no construction can happen on the plot that was provided to us because it’s agricultural land. So, the ADA had to change the land use. For this, we have written to the ADA as well as to the State government, but the situation is still the same,” Athar Husain Siddiqui, secretary, IICF told The Hindu.

‘Due process’

ADA secretary Satyendra Singh denied any administrative hurdle in the construction of the mosque, but termed the delay “due process”. “We have received all permissions from the government. The matter will be presented before the ADA board meeting, which may happen in the next fortnight. Everything will be cleared in the meeting,” he added.

The mosque, like the temple, is being crowd-funded. So far, the IICF has received donations of ₹40 lakh from people across India. The members of the mosque trust say that the first donation they received was from a Hindu.

For the temple, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and temple trust have managed to collect over ₹3,500 crore. Mr. Husain, who refuses to draw any comparison between the two, says that the centuries-long dispute ended with the decision of the Supreme Court. “We want to build this mosque to send across a message of peace,” he said, adding that initially people from the Muslim community were reluctant to take the 5 acres of land — for many, it was a compromise.

“We managed to bring hope within the community after we got a design and donations. The mindset [within the community] had started changing, but such hurdles again put us on the backfoot, as people have again started questioning if the decision of building the mosque was right,” he said.

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