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Bukhari dares Jagmohan on encroachments
Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi | May 21, 2003 03:13 IST
Syed Ahmad Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, seems all set to take on Union Tourism and Culture Minister Jagmohan head on over his attempts to remove encroachments around the 17th century mosque.
As per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, new structures cannot be built within 300 metres of a protected monument. It was in this backdrop that Jagmohan had written to the ASI director general to declare the mosque a protected monument, as this would enable the ASI to make improvements around the complex.
The mosque built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan is the largest in India and has been controlled by the Bukharis for generations.
In a hard-hitting letter the Shahi Imam dared the Union minister to 'even come to the stairs of the Jama Masjid'.
"We will be waiting to greet you (Jagmohan) with thousands of people at the stairs of the Jama Masjid," the Imam wrote.
The tone and tenor of letter echoes the possibility of a repeat of the infamous Turkman Gate incident of 1975 (during emergency) when the Municipal Corporation of Delhi had demolished thousands of unauthorised hutments on the orders of Jagmohan, who was the lieutenant governor of Delhi then.
The drive rendered thousands homeless and the incident snowballed into an ugly communal confrontation between the police and members of the Muslim community leading to the death of many from police firing.
"Jagmohan wants to convert the places of namaz into pleasure and merry-making centres," Bukhari told rediff.com. "We have faced his (Jagmohan's) bulldozers of the emergency and we are prepared to face him yet again. His dream would never be fulfilled."
Giving an account of the condition of some of the mosques now being controlled and maintained by the ASI, the Imam asked, "What is going on in the Sher Shah Suri and Purana Qila moqsues? They have all become merry-making centres. Besides, people walk in with their shoes on in the Lal Qila mosque. They are all controlled and maintained by the ASI."
"Firstly, I will make it a political issue. And secondly, it will blow up into an even bigger issue than the Babri Masjid issue," Bukhari said, when asked what his plan of action will be if the ASI notifies the mosque as a monument of national importance. "The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government is bereft of all planks and therefore it is setting its eyes on the Jama Masjid to whip up communal passions on election eve for electoral gains."
Many, however, see Jagmohan as a dedicated town planner who will go to any level to carry out his decisions, notwithstanding controversies, confrontations or even public outcry.
Jagmohan had recently ordered the demolition of government quarters, in the face of strong public protest, to convert them into parks in Sadiq Nagar and Minto Road.
He also faced the ire of his partymen after, as the Union urban development minister, he carried out the demolition of many unauthorised constructions in Delhi. Party insiders said Jagmohan was shifted from the urban development ministry to the tourism and culture ministry because of his running battle against the land mafia in Delhi.
More reports from Delhi
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