3 yrs on, Fatehpuri masjid restoration moves at snail’s pace

The main mosque was made water-proof to prevent water ingress and seepage that could further damage the structure.

Written by Sumegha Gulati | New Delhi | Published: June 14, 2014 3:31:24 am
ASI began the renovation work at Fatehpuri Masjid in 2011. (Express Photo:  AMit Mehra) ASI began the renovation work at Fatehpuri Masjid in 2011. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

The renovation work of the 17th century Fatehpuri Masjid in Chandni Chowk has been on for the past  three years. Yet, it is nowhere near complete. While the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) blamed lack of adequate space  and time to carry out renovation for the delay, mosque authorities said the ASI was doing a “shoddy job” of it.

The Fatehpuri Masjid, built in 1650 by one of Emperor Shahjahan’s wives, Fatehpuri Begum, was among the four monuments that were chosen under a conservation project in 2011.

“The project was launched to pay tribute to Swami Vivekananda’s ideals. One religious site each in Punjab, Delhi, Goa and Central India was chosen to undergo restoration. Of the Rs 14 crore that was allocated for the project, Rs 6 crore was earmarked for Fatehpuri Masjid,” a senior official from the Ministry of Culture told Newsline.
ASI said it has spent just one-third of the fund in the past three years. “We have spent about Rs 2 crore. First, the key areas for restoration were identified. The lime-mortar used in the mosque had disintegrated and seepage had begun in many places, making it one of the most critical problems.

Moreover, the dalaan floor — in the courtyard — was also in shambles. Local residents had put up a concrete wall around a graveyard and a well inside the premises. Both of these has to be removed,” Superintendent Archeologist (Delhi) Vasant Kumar Swarankar said. ASI began by repairing the entrance gates first. “The minars and the stones supporting them had come off. We restored them first. The aesthetics of Mughal architecture was kept in mind while working out the details,” Swarankar said.
The flooring of the courtyard was also changed. A red sandstone jaal (lattice work) that is typical of Mughal architecture was put around the well and graveyard to “beautify” it.

The main mosque was made water-proof to prevent water ingress and seepage that could further damage the structure. The ASI also repaired a madrasssa on  the mosque premises.  Yet, the pace of the conservation work, ASI officials admitted, has been slow. One of the reasons for this, they said, is the severe space crunch. “It’s a living mosque. So there is no space for us to carry out our work. We need space to stock raw materials, prepare the mortar and chisel the sandstone. We are currently using the Red Fort — 1.5 km away — for preparing the mortar and then it is carried to the site,” Swarankar said.

Time is the other issue, he said. With prayer timings taking away a major portion of working hours, ASI officials said they were left with little time to carry out work. “We are now allowed to work during namaz time.When Ramzan starts next month, the work will again be halted,” Swarankar said. The mosque’s religious head, however, said they were extending all cooperation to the ASI. Naib Shahi Imam Moazzum Ahmed said though the Waqf Board owns the monument, they wanted ASI to renovate the site after major damages were noticed.

Claiming that ASI has done a “shoddy job”, Ahmed said, “The repairs carried out with funds collected from locals were much better. You do not expect such work from government-appointed, qualified engineers,” Ahmed said. Ahmed said the ASI was “merely running away” from its responsibility.

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