Hyderabad: In one of the most provocative actions taken against a Muslim place of worship since the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, the Uttar Pradesh government defied a state High Court order and bulldozed a 100-year-old mosque in Ram Sanehi Ghat area of Barbanki district.
According to the Guardian, the police and security forces moved into the area and cleared it on Monday and then brought in bulldozers and levelled the mosque. Debris was then thrown into a river and security forces deployed to prevent anyone coming within a mile from where the mosque stood.
Maulana Abdul Mustafa, a local Imam, who is on the mosque committee said that the mosque was hundreds of years old and thousands of people have been coming here five times a day to offer Namaz (Islamic congregational prayer).
“All Muslims were scared, so no one went near the mosque or dared to protest when the mosque was being demolished. Even today, several dozen people are leaving their homes and hiding in other areas out of the fear of the police,” he said.
One of the district magistrates, Adarsh Singh said “I do not know any mosque. I know there was an illegal structure. The Uttar Pradesh high court declared it illegal. That’s why the regional senior district magistrate took action. I will not say anything else.”
The Guardian said that the demolition was in violation of a high court order issued on April 24, according to which the mosque building should be protected from any eviction or demolition until May 31.
As per reports, the mosque’s presence has been contested by the local administration, which on March 15 issued a show cause notice to the mosque committee asking it to explain how the building’s location was chosen and citing an intention to demolish it on grounds that there were illegal structures on the land.
A detailed response, including documents demonstrating the building had an electrical connection from 1959 was sent by the mosque committee, but the local administration did not take the response on to official records.
The mosque committee went to the Uttar Pradesh High Court citing concerns that the mosque faced “imminent demolition” on March 18. An order was given for the local authorities to file a reply about the grounds on which it had established that the mosque had been illegally built and was obstructing traffic even though the structure didn’t sit on a road.
In the following days, a permanent structure was built to block access to the mosque and on March 19, local Muslims were prevented from entering the mosque for Friday prayers, which caused tensions and protests in the area. According to the Guardian, over 35 Muslims who were protesting were arrested and put in jail, while many are still held and police reports were filed against the demonstrators.
The mosque committee in April filed a public interest litigation in the high court and in a further ruling on April 24, the High Court ordered that “any orders of eviction, dispossession or demolition …shall remain in abeyance until 31.05.21”.
Despite the High Court order, the UP administration went ahead with the demolition of the mosque on Monday. Local Muslims in the area including members of the mosque committee said that they had gone into hiding over fears they would be targeted and arrested. Zafar Ahmad Faruqi, chairman of Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf board said in a statement “I strongly condemn the patently illegal and high-handed action… by which they have demolished a 100 year old mosque”.
He added that the demolition was against the law, a misuse of power and in utter violation of the clear orders dated April 24, passed by the High Court and called for a high-level judicial enquiry.
The district where the mosque was located is adjacent to Ayodhya, where the Babri Mosque once stood before its demolition in 1992. In a controversial court ruling in 2019, judges declared that the land legally belonged to Hindus, rather than Muslims, and a new Ram Temple is under construction on the site where the Babri Mosque stood earlier.