Delhi’s religious institutions receive a notification from the railways for “encroachments” on their property.
In recent developments, Delhi Waqf Board (DWB) officials have reported that unsigned and undated notices were issued to two mosques in Delhi, instructing them to remove encroachments from their premises within 15 days. Additionally, the Northern Railway has issued a similar notice calling for the removal of encroachments on its land, including religious structures. However, railroad officials have clarified that this is a routine exercise to remove unauthorised structures on their property.
The notice issued by the railway administration warns those who have illegally encroached upon railway land to voluntarily dismantle any unauthorized structures, such as temples, mosques, or shrines, within 15 days of receiving the alert. Failure to comply would result in legal action, and encroachments that are not permitted will be removed by the Railways Act. It is specified that any damage incurred during the removal process will be the responsibility of the encroachers, and the railway administration will not be held accountable for it. The notice lacks a date and signature.
According to DWB officials, the unsigned and undated notices were issued to Masjid Bachchu Shah in Bengali Market and Masjid Takia Babbar Shah near Tilak Bridge. These two mosques have been claimed to be over 400 years old, existing before the rail infrastructure was established in their respective locations. The DWB is currently involved in a court battle with the Centre over the ownership of 123 properties, including mosques, mausoleums, and graveyards. The matter is pending in the high court.
Delhi, a city steeped in history and religious diversity, has found itself embroiled in a contentious issue revolving around two ancient mosques, Masjid Takia Babar Shah and Masjid Bachchu Shah, in Bengali Market. These religious sites, believed to have a legacy of more than 400 years, have recently been served with notices by the Northern Railways, sparking concerns over their preservation and potential disruption of the peaceful atmosphere.
The origin of the dispute can be traced back to 1973 when the Railways reportedly requested a piece of land on which Masjid Takia Babar Shah stands. The authorities claimed 94 square yards of land for the construction of a bridge, raising questions about the ownership of the mosque and the historical significance of the land it occupies. However, DWB (Delhi Waqf Board) officials have put forth compelling evidence stating that the mosque is older than four centuries and is among the 42 religious properties that were returned to Muslims by the British government in 1943.
The managing committee of Masjid Bachchu Shah, led by Hafiz Matlub Karim, responded strongly to the notices, viewing them as an act of harassment and an attempt to disrupt the serene environment surrounding the mosque. They expressed their concerns in written letters to railway authorities, the Delhi Lieutenant Governor, and police officials, seeking the withdrawal or revocation of the notices.
Amanutallah Khan, the chairman of the Delhi Waqf Board, echoed these sentiments in a letter to the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Northern Railways. He urged the authorities to reconsider their actions, emphasising the historical significance of Masjid Takia Babar Shah and asserting that neither the land belongs to the railways nor is the mosque an encroachment. Khan’s plea aimed to preserve the religious and historical heritage of the mosque and mitigate potential unrest caused by the notice.
This particular issue is not isolated; it is part of a larger court battle between the Delhi Waqf Board and the Central Government over property ownership. The Northern Railway, in its defence, claims that the notices are part of routine exercises to remove unauthorised structures on their land. However, this explanation fails to consider the deep-rooted historical and cultural value associated with the two mosques.
Masjid Takia Babar Shah and Masjid Bachchu Shah have been more than just places of worship for generations of Delhiites. They have served as symbols of unity and cultural heritage, representing the diverse religious fabric of the city. Any attempt to disturb these revered sites may lead to public outrage and unrest.
The historical significance of these mosques cannot be overlooked. Masjid Takia Babar Shah’s 400-year-old legacy stands as a testament to the region’s rich history, while Masjid Bachchu Shah has also witnessed the passage of time since its construction. These sacred places have seen Delhi’s transformation, reflecting the harmony and tolerance among different religious communities.
The Delhi Waqf Board’s plea for the withdrawal of the notices is not merely a request to protect religious structures; it is an appeal to safeguard the city’s cultural heritage and the sentiments of its people. Their stance is bolstered by the fact that the British government recognized the importance of these religious properties and rightfully returned them to the Muslim community during the colonial era.
As the dispute unfolds, it is essential for all parties involved to approach the matter with sensitivity and consideration for the historical significance of the mosques. A resolution that upholds the sanctity of these religious sites while addressing the railroad’s concerns can be sought through open dialogue and negotiations.
The government, along with the railway authorities, must take into account the emotions and beliefs of the people associated with these mosques. Preserving cultural and religious landmarks not only fosters social cohesion but also strengthens the bond between communities.
In conclusion, the issue surrounding the notices sent to Masjid Takia Babar Shah and Masjid Bachchu Shah is a critical juncture in Delhi’s history. The conflict is not just about land ownership; it represents a clash between preserving historical heritage and urban development.
The authorities should heed the voices of the people, religious leaders, and heritage preservationists to find a solution that respects the historical significance of these mosques while addressing any genuine concerns raised by the railway authorities. A delicate balance between development and cultural preservation can ensure a harmonious and prosperous future for Delhi and its revered landmarks.