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Mosque reconstruction defies solution
By Mohammed Iqbal

ASIND (Rajasthan): The vexed issue of reconstruction of the 16th century mosque which existed in the Sawai Bhoj temple complex here continues to defy solution a week after its demolition. Rumours are having a field day in the town and tension, accentuated by resentment against the Government, is again rising to a new level.

In a new twist to the entire episode, the predominant Gurjar community here has started claiming that the decrepit mosque - pulled down by a 300-strong mob on July 27 - was in fact a ``Dhooni'' (hermitage) of Baba Roopnath, which was frequented by Hindu monks crossing the temple during their journey. The community sees nothing wrong in converting the ``Dhooni'' into a temple, though the idol installed at the spot has since been removed.

The way the historic Sawai Bhoj complex has been converted from an epitome of communal harmony into a battle-field for supremacy makes a disturbing account. Asind, which attracts devotees from far-off places, has this time gained prominence for wrong reasons. The people in the town are evidently unhappy over the turn of events.

Major challenge
The State Government faces a major challenge. In addition to the Congress Gurjar leader and Minister of State for Public Relations, Dr. Jitendra Singh, camping here since Wednesday, the Home Minister, Mr. Gulab Singh Shaktawat, arrived in the town today to negotiate with the Gurjar community, representatives of the Sawai Bhoj Temple Trust and the Muslim community.

The chairman of the trust and a former MLA, Mr. Laxmilal Gurjar, had initially admitted that some ``illiterate'' people, agitated over a dispute concerning the route to the nearby Badia Dargah, had razed the mosque to the ground. However, speaking to this correspondent, he said the structure had wrongly been registered in the State Waqf Board's record as a mosque.

``The structure said to be the mosque had a single wall of seven- foot height and 10-foot width and a small platform. There is no evidence of `namaaz' ever having been offered there,'' he said. The settlement records of the complex, measuring 700 bighas, did not refer to the existence of any mosque in it, though they mentioned the Badia Dargah situated one kilometre away from the temple, he claimed.

Even as the community elders assert that they are willing to resolve the ``dispute'' amicably, their emphasis during the hurriedly-formed peace committee's meeting has been on the issue of giving way to the devotees to the dargah through the temple land. While a consensus seems to have emerged on the demarcation of the route, the main issue of demolition continues to be a thorn in the flesh.

Unable to convince both the sides to reach a mutually acceptable solution, the district administration intends to refer the matter to the Waqf Board. ``When the peace committee meets again on August 6, we will formally request the Waqf Board to clarify its position on the status of the mosque,'' the District Collector, Mr. P.C. Vyas, said.

The Government is aware of the fact that the issue would get more complex with the passage of time. ''Our first priority was to restore normality and control the shocking impact of demolition,'' Mr. Vyas pointed out, and added that the ``voluntary'' removal of idol from the mosque site had helped normalise the situation.

The three-foot idol of Lord Hanuman was shifted in the night intervening between July 31 and August 1 and installed beside the wall of a nearby temple. A visit to the complex revealed that the platform built to mark the newly-erected temple existed in the same position while the rubble of the mosque's wall and minarets was lying adjacent to it.

As a precautionary step, the Badia Dargah - where two saints, Sultan Shah Baba and Ghaffar Sahib Baba, are buried - has been taken over by the Special Task Force (STF), whose jawans are protecting it round the clock. The trouble had originally started from this place and its three-day Urs remained inconclusive because of the ugly events.

Mr. Rafiq Ahmed, the much-respected leader of the Muslim community and head of the Sheikh Committee, regrets that the matter has been given a communal colour. ``It is essentially a matter of title. The mosque had been abandoned for the past 50 years and had only a symbolic value. Its reconstruction will restore the same position,'' he said.

Muslims for negotiations
The Muslim community too is in favour of a negotiated settlement, but points out that the rumours spreading in the town had led to fear among the people. ``We have asked the youth and children not to move around on roads till next Monday,'' Mr. Ahmed said.

The alleged assailants responsible for destruction of the mosque continue to be at large. One of them, Mansukh Singh - who is a named accused in one of the two criminal cases registered by police - remains an enigma for the administration. He is the ``international president'' of a nondescript organisation, Rajesh Pilot Brigade, and was instrumental in getting a statue of late Rajesh Pilot installed in the complex a few months ago.

According to police, Mansukh Singh is still absconding while investigations are in progress to confirm the role of others in the episode. The resentment among the people in the town is ascribed to the absence of any indication of the arrest of any of the 300 people who were involved in the crime.

Asind, which had never experienced communal tension of this scale earlier, is today helplessly witnessing its once strong foundation of community relationship crumbling down. The people here can only pray that the situation does not flare up any further.
Source: The Hindu, 4 August 2001
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