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Another 'Babri' in the making

Picture: Qutb Minar with the remains of the
Quwwatul Islam Mosque

The Delhi Police foiled yet another attempt of members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other extremist organizations to conduct a yagna at the Quwwatul Islam Masjid in the Qutub Complex in New Delhi on 13 March.

The Qutub Complex was totally cordoned off and about 200 Delhi Police personnel and CISF jawans were deployed to prevent the hooligans from entering the complex which is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Around forty-five VHP members were arrested while trying to break the police cordon near the Qutub complex. They included several senior VHP leaders of the Delhi unit.

The VHP is trying for several months now to perform yagna in the complex and is constantly trying to provoke people in order to give it an Ayodhya type turn. An ASI official said that ‘every Ganesh Chaturthi there are threats to review the worshipping of the idol. But the ASI maintains status-quo from the time the monument was notified as protected one.

When the police refused to allow the VHP to perform Ganesh Chaturthi in the complex they announced to try and perform the yagna every month till they are able to offer prayers before the Ganesha idol and install an idol in the complex. It has now become a monthly ritual and they gather every month outside the complex in order to try to install an idol inside.

People of the area irrespective of their religious affiliations have come out openly against the VHP and Bajrang Dal move to concoct an issue. They have not only opposed the installation of the Ganesha idol inside the complex but also forced the officials to open the Mughal-period mosque adjacent to the complex for the devotees. This mosque is different from the Quwwatul Islam Mosque which is targetted by the extremists. Quwwatul Islam is the first mosque in North India and was built by Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak in 1192 and was completed in 1196. It is more famous for the Qutb Minar which is the one of the two minars of the original mosque; the second minar, started by Sultan Alauddin Khilji (d.1316 CE) was left incomplete due to his early death and still lies half-built in the complex.

The historical mosque of Mughal period in the Qutub complex was locked last month following the threats of the VHP to offer the yagna at the complex. The authorities refused to open the mosque even when the hooligans did not turn up for yagna. The police initially tried to scoff off the accusation as mere rumour and said that the mosque was not locked. When the security was removed in the evening and the imam of the mosque, Maulana Sher Muhammad tried to enter the mosque he was amazed to see the gate of the mosque locked. When he contacted the SHO of the area, the Imam was told that the police does not know anything and that they had no role in the closure of the mosque. When he contacted the private security personnel deployed at the complex he was told that they had orders to lock. The private security personnel added that as Hindus are not allowed to offer puja there, Muslims will not be allowed to offer their prayers either.

When the imam tried to force his way into the mosque he was not allowed to enter. The imam says that the mosque was never controversial and no one in its several hundred years-long history had tried to deny Muslims the right to offer prayers there. Though this mosque is under the ASI, it has an imam who is appointed by the Waqf Board.

On knowing of the closure people of the area themselves acted and came to the mosque in large numbers. Priests of several temples including the Swami of Chatarpur Mandir and Swami Mahindernath came to ask the authorities to open the mosque for Muslims. They all accused the authorities of creating unwarranted problems. They also said that it was a step by the authorities to create communal tension in the area. They also threatened to remain on dharna till the mosque was opened. When the authorities saw people of all the faiths demanding to open the mosque, they were forced to oblige.

However, the attempt to perform yagna at the complex is a monthly ritual now and it is being seen as the beginning of another Babri-like controversy if it is not stopped completely.

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