Ignoring official warnings that no religious gathering will be permitted at the Walled City site where MLA Shoaib Iqbal and his supporters have started work on reconstruction of the Mughal-era Akbarabadi Masjid,an estimated crowd of 5,000 faithful offered prayers on Friday.
Some 500 policemen kept watch and all roads leading to Subhash Park and up to Red Fort were cordoned off till the prayers ended at 2.15 pm. Loudspeakers were installed for the Imams sermon.
Later in the day,tension mounted as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad jumped in and its activists gathered to march towards Subhash Park.
The VHP and the Sant Mahadev Mandal claimed that a Pandav-era temple once stood on the site.
They even sent a letter to the Mayor,reiterating their claim.
Some 300 activists were detained by police.
VHP Delhi spokesperson Vinod Bansal said: We were to march till Subhash Park and read the Hanuman Chalisa. The wall that has been illegally constructed at the park should be demolished and a temple built. But before we could set out,police came to us saying that the march would disrupt law and order. So we courted arrest.
Ahead of the prayers at the site,Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal addressed the gathering to inform them about the importance of the land.
The government and other agencies are politicising the issue. We have documents to prove that this is where the historic Akbarabadi Masjid once stood. We do not want any communal trouble. The Archaeological Survey of India and the North municipal corporation can check for facts, he said.
Iqbal has written to the Municipal Commissioner,demanding that as per Section 200 (c) of the DMC Act,the land should be transferred to the Akbarabadi Restoration Committee. The committee is chaired by Iqbal and its members are Matia Mahal residents. Section 200 (c) states that the Commissioner may,at his discretion,transfer any immovable property belonging to the corporation.
Meanwhile,North Mayor Meera Aggarwal,Leader of the House and Chairman of the Standing Committee met Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna on Friday afternoon to discuss ways to resolve the issue.
The corporation has written to the police to provide force to evict people from the site. Once we get the required deployment,the site will be taken over and handed over to the ASI, said North Municipal Commissioner P K Gupta.
Describing the mosque reconstruction as an encroachment,the civic body said it would seal the premises. No one would be allowed to enter. Till the time people are allowed inside,the situation cannot be brought under control, Mayor Aggarwal said.