The demolition of a 50-year-old mosque by the DDA and the threat to demolish an over 100-year-old dargah kept Kathputli Colony on the boil on Tuesday. To “save” the Dargah Hazrat Syed Bhure Shah Peer, which also has a mosque and madrassa linked to it, Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan had to intervene.
While Madina Masjid at Kathputli colony was razed within 15 minutes, a building on its side stood tall, prompting residents to ask why the mosque could not be demolished last — once all of them had been moved out. The imam of the mosque, Hafiz Zahir Sahab, who has been working there for past 32 years, said, “When there are still residents yet to be shifted, why the hurry in bringing the masjid down?”
Locals claimed that the mosque, which caters to almost 5,000 people from the colony, was hardly given any time to vacate the premises, so the only things that could be saved were a blue cupboard and the Holy Quran. Some residents also wondered if temples in the area would be brought down next.
But what surprised residents further was the plan to demolish “bada masjid”, which technically falls in Pandav Nagar and not under Kathputli Colony. The Imam of the dargah, Maulana Abdul Rahim, said that while the land is unauthorised, the religious structure was built more than 100 years ago.
“Yesterday, I got a call from the DDA that the masjid will be demolished, and we were asked to vacate. In panic, I called people from our community, and since then we have been guarding it,” said Rahim. Built on 1,000 sq ft, it also has a madrasa which imparts education to 200-250 children.
The legend goes that the land where the dargah was built used to be a forest with a swamp and kikar trees growing. It was their saint, Bhure Shah, who filled this swamp land and started teaching children under a pipal tree, whose branches now surround the dargah and the masjid.
“We have seen the structure like this since we were kids. We were told that the pipal tree would glow at night, which is how it was decided that a dargah should be built here. How can they demolish it all of a sudden?” said 72-year-old Mohammad Iqbal.
MLA Khan assured the structure would not be demolished. DDA’s housing commissioner J P Aggarwal said, “A delegation led by Khan met us and said the structure is very old and not in Kathputli Colony. We told them to give us papers that substantiate their claim. We will get it examined with the competent authority and whatever action will be taken will be as per the law.”
Aggarwal added the demolition of the mosque was done after following the legal process. “DDA has so far followed all legal processes while rehabilitating people,” he said.
Protect team, says court
The Delhi High Court has directed police to ensure protection to respresentatives of the three NGOs who have been appointed to inspect Kathputli Colony, and point out jhuggis of those deemed ineligible for relocation to the DDA. One of the representatives had moved court alleging that she was “continuously chased by a mob hurling abuses at her”.