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Gujarat: ASI out to erase rioters' legacy

March 06, 2006 12:20 IST

As victims of the Gujarat riots try to get over horrifying memories of the communal frenzy, which left indelible marks on their psyche, the Archaeological Survey of India is erasing the tell-tale marks of damage inflicted by mobs on ancient monuments - especially those belonging to the Mughal era.

Complete Coverage: The Gujarat Riots

Experts have been working non-stop to restore archaeological monuments that bore the brunt of frenzied mobs.

According to statistics available, over 250 places of worship of the Muslim community across the state were damaged during the riots, including the famous Noorani Masjid in Naroda-Patiya area of Ahmedabad.

The Gujarat chapter of the ASI has been working since 2002 to restore the three important monuments that were damaged during the riots, which broke out on February 28, 2002 after 59 karsevaks onboard the Sabarmati Express train were killed near Godhra railway station in Panchmahals district.

While the ASI has been handling only three major monuments that fall under their list of protected structures, non governmental organisations and wealthy individuals of the minority community have also tried to chip in with funds for restoring important damaged mosques and tombs.

The monuments taken up by the ASI include one dating back to the early 15th century - the unique small stone mosque at Ishanpur area in Ahmedabad city.

"The rioters had completely damaged the Ishanpur mosque. Miscreants also used a bulldozer to damage the structure. It has been quite a task to rebuild the mosque and restore its old glory," state ASI Director Dr Shivanad V Rao told PTI.

The ASI has had an uphill task while trying to renovate the Ishanpur mosque and had to start right from the foundation of the ancient structure. Several historical books were referred to, old photographs of the structures carefully studied before archaeological experts entrusted local masons and craftsmen to work upon bringing back the glory of the structure as close to its original beauty and grandeur.

"The ASI has so far spent over Rs 8 lakh in rebuilding the Ishanpur mosque and the budget for this structure alone is about Rs 18 lakh. This project will be over only by 2007," the ASI Director said.

ASI field officials said renovation work on other two important structures - Muhafiz Khan's mosque (Ahmedabad city) and Tomb of Mubarak Sayyid (Kheda) - had been completed and were open for the public.

Muhafiz Khan's mosque, built in 1485 AD during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Shah I (1458-1511), is a fine piece of Mughal architecture. The Tomb in Kheda was built in 1484 AD in memory of Mubarak Sayyid who was a minister during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Begada (1458-1511).

"Some generous people of the Muslim community have come forward with funds to restore these tombs and mosques. However, these people wish to remain anonymous as they do not want publicity for their contribution to the community," a minority community NGO member said.

The social activist said it was a tough task to remake or re-erect each masjid (mosque) that was damaged as people of each riot-affected locality have barely managed to piece their lives together. The tomb of Wali Gujarati, a renowned poet, which is located in the heart of the city and just 100 metres from the police commissioner's office, was one of the structures reduced to rubble by rioting mobs after the bandh call was given by Vishwa Hindu Parishad on February 28, 2002.

However the Gujarat WAKF board has not lent a helping hand for renovation and rebuilding work despite the fact that a 400-year-old mosque in the city, which is owned by them, was also attacked and burnt, allegedly in the presence of former Gujarat cabinet minister Haren Pandya in Paldi area of the city.

A K Ansari of the WAKF Board said the Board had not undertaken the task of rebuilding any of the damaged or broken structures, as this was not their responsibility alone.

Anil Nair in Ahmedabad