National

Heritage Park in Mehrauli area is Waqf land

New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s Delhi circle and Delhi State Archaeology department together with Delhi Development Authority (DDA) plan to build Mehrauli Archaeological Park near Qutub Minar in Mehrauli. Under this plan of an archaeological or heritage park a vast area covering about 200 acres is to be acquired for building this Park which, according to ASI includes 21 listed old and historical monuments including ruins of the first city built by Rajput rulers and according to Muslims about a dozen mosques, dargahs of saints, historical tombs, hundreds of graves, at least one graveyard and some Delhi Waqf Board’s lands. According to Muslims, the proposed Park covering about 200 acres (199 acres, to be exact) also includes Khasras No 169, 171, 175 about which Supreme Court has given a stay in favour of Delhi Waqf Board. On Delhi Waqf Board’s large piece of lands a number of old mosques including Masjid Karimia, Masjid Ghausia, Noori mosque, Baghwali Masjid, Neem Wali Masjid etc. also exist. Regular Namaz is offered in most of these mosques and in addition there are 5 madrasas also in which several hundred children read. There are some dargahs of saints also. There are also some old and historical building, and structures under ASI like Rajon ki Baoli, Masjid Jamali Kamali, Jamali’s tomb, tomb of king Balban. It is said that Masjid Jamali Kamali is owned by Delhi Waqf Board.

According to Masjid Karimia’s Imam, Maulana Ibrahim recently DDA’s Vice Chairman along with DDA officials had come to this area for inspection. In addition to DDA officials there were also many RSS activists. They were allegedly telling DDA officials what should be built and where in these lands which also include Waqf lands. This means that RSS is actively involved in destroying Waqf properties for developing the archaeological or heritage park. Maulana Ibrahim further said that before going back, DDA Vice Chairman had instructed his officials to get these places cleaned and taken them in their possession. Though Muslims are very much agitated over ASI and DDA’s plan to build the Mehrauli Archaeological Park and are determined to foil ASI-DDA’s plan, Waqf Board’s chairman Chaudhari Mateen Ahmad says that Waqf Board’s properties i.e. mosques, graveyard and graves will be protected, it as open to question how these can be protected when ASI and DDA claim that of the 15 monuments of ASI, 8 are encroachments, including mosques by Delhi Waqf Board. Some Muslim religious leaders including Mufti Maulana Mukarram Ahmad, Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid favour that Muslims carry on an agitation against ASI-DDA plan to develop the Archaeological Park.

Delhi’s Archaeology Department says that survey and documentation work has been completed about 11 out of 15 monuments in this Park. Officials of this department say that of their 15 monuments, 8 have been encroached upon and prayers are being offered in 3 of them which are mosques of Delhi Waqf Board. What is disputable is that what the Waqf Board calls its properties (like mosques etc), Delhi ASI officials describe them as encroachments. How these disputes will be settled is to be seen.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2014 on page no. 7

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