Authorities in Uttar Pradesh Demolish an Old Mosque Ignoring High Court Order

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The scene after the demolition of the mosque.

The mosque was registered with UP Sunni Central Waqf Board. Its Chairman Zufar Farooqui says he will challenge the action in court

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — Authorities in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district razed a mosque on Monday ignoring an order of the Allahabad High Court that it should be protected from any eviction or demolition until May 31.

The news of the demolition in Ram Sanehi Ghat city was broken by The Guardian of London on Tuesday. National media has apparently been caught off guard.

The location of the over half-a-century-old mosque was, The Guardian reported, contested by the local administration. Citing it as an illegal structure, the authorities on March 15 served a “show cause” notice to the mosque committee asking it to explain how the mosque’s location was decided.

Police and other paramilitary personnel on Monday arrived in the area and after clearing it of people, brought down the mosque by bulldozers. The Guardian reported that after destroying, its debris was thrown into a river.

Security forces have also been deployed in the area and people have been told that they cannot come within a mile close to where the mosque stood.

Earlier, responding to the show cause notice, the mosque committee had sent documents, including proof of an electricity connection from 1959, to the authorities demonstrating that the building was not illegally constructed.

The mosque committee, on March 18, went to the Allahabad High Court with concerns that the mosque faced “imminent demolition”. Responding to the plea, the court directed the local administration to file a reply about the grounds on which it had established that the mosque had been illegally built and was obstructing traffic.

But a day after the court’s direction, the authorities blocked Muslims from entering the mosque to offer Friday prayers by raising up a permanent structure.

In fact, around three dozen local Muslims, who protested the move were detained and put in jail. According to The Guardian, many of them are still in jail and have been booked under different sections of law.

The mosque committee responded to this by filing a public interest litigation in the high court. On April 24, the high court ordered that “any orders of eviction, dispossession or demolition …shall remain in abeyance until 31.05.21”.

However, the administration went ahead and demolished the mosque.

The Guardian quoted a local imam, Maulana Abdul Mustafa, who is on the mosque committee, as saying that the mosque was “hundreds of years old” and that “thousands of people have been coming here five times a day to offer namaz [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.”

Adarsh Singh, a district magistrate, 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.”

Meanwhile, the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board on Tuesday termed the demolition of the mosque “a misuse of power”.

In a statement, its Chairman, Zufar Farooqui, said that the mosque was registered with it, and it will go to court against action.

“This act is against law, misuse of power and utter violation of the clear orders dated 24.4.2021 passed by the Honourable High Court. The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board will immediately approach the Honourable High Court demanding restoration of the mosque, high-level judicial enquiry and action against the guilty officials,” Farooqui, said
He condemned the “illegal” action by the “Tehsil and District Administration”.

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