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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Cover Story
Babri mediator is mosque usurper

Dalai Lama has offered his good offices to mediate in the vexed Babri dispute. Indian Muslims have welcomed his gesture of goodwill but find it at odds with his past. He has been a consistent supporter of the RSS, attending its conferences and saying all the right things in order to keep the Hindutvites in good humour. This is not all. HH is in fact occupying a mosque in his capital town of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Called "Masjid McLeodganj," this illegally occupied building is being used as the Welfare and Passport office of HH's Tibetan government-in-exile at Dharamshala.

McLeodganj Mosque

This came to light during a survey done by the well-known Delhi-based scholar Maulana Ataur Rahman Qasimi during his fieldwork for his book Punjab wa Haryana ki tarikhi masajid, which has been published by the Punjab Waqf Board based in Ambala in 2000. He has described this mosque on pages 526-531 of this book and published three photographs on pages 584-585.



Tibetan Welfare Office board outside the mosque

After the migration and expulsion of Muslims from Punjab during Partition, many mosques in Dharamshala were demolished and many went into illegal occupation while some are still functoning as mosques, the book says. 

Dalai Lama fled to India in 1960. He came to Dharamshala where he was allowed to set up an administration-in-exile. This administration includes the Welfare and Passport offices. This office is housed in the old mosque of McLeodganj and sports a board which reads as follows: 
Tibetan Welfare Office
Centre for Home Affairs of HH Dalai Lama
P.O. McLeodganj, Dharamshala, 
Kangra Distt, H.P. India

Inside the building the following board is found:
Branch Security Office of 
Security & Passport Office

Maulana Qasimi’s letter to Dalai Lama

It is a matter of great honour and priviledge to address His Holiness about the so-called Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi dispute which seems to be the thorniest issue mainly due to vested interests...The initiative that His Holiness has taken to solve it has been widely welcomed. We welcome this initiative with an open heart. Who other than your holiness can gauge the sentiments of a minority community whose place of worship was so blatantly demolished? Your holiness can show the way by handing over property on khasra no. 273 McLeodganj, which houses the ministry of welfare and passport office of your holiness' government, to Muslims because it is a mosque...

According to the book, the area of this mosque is 30x15 feet and its mihrab and musalla are still intact. Filing cabinets are kept in the prayer hall. The roof is made of tin supported by timber logs as usual with buildings in that area in order to protect them from ice during winter.

This mosque is mentioned on page 580 in the McLeodganj Gazette of 1970 under number 325. Mosque's khasra [land registry] number is 273 and the area mentioned is 10 marlas (300 sq. yards). There is a Muslim graveyard at a distance of 200 yards from this mosque and a concrete grave is still visible there. Most of the houses in the area originally belonged to Muslims but Tibetan exiles use them now. Maulana Qasimi tried to photograph the mosque from inside but the Dalai Lama's people there prevented him from doing so. A Hindu resident of the area confirmed to Maulana Qasimi that the building is indeed a mosque and he has known it as such since his childhood.

Maulana Qasimi sent a letter (above) to Dalai Lama on 9 January 2004 after reading about HH's initiative. The letter remains unanswered.

¯ Zafarul-Islam Khan

Related stories in this issue:
Should ‘Guest’ Dalai Lama interfere...

Open letter to Dalai Lama 

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