Despite court decree, Muslims denied access to mosques in Punjab

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

New Delhi: After Partition of India in 1947 Muslims of Punjab state migrated to Pakistan or were killed. Their properties including madrasas and mosques were captured by the local Hindus and Sikhs. Many mosques were converted into gurudwaras. In last five decades, the Punjab Wakf Board has won several such cases of captured mosques, but it hasn’t been able to take possession of them from the illegal occupants. One such mosque is in Aapo Aap locality in Nabha subdivision of Patiala district.

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The 200-year-old mosque of Aapo Aap was captured after the Partition. But the Punjab Wakf Board won the case against the illegal occupant Jatinder Kumar Bansal s/o Late Ch. Ved Parkash in the Civil Court of Nabha in 1968. The illegal occupant challenged the order in Addl District Judge, Patiala but again lost there in 1969. As the locality has very few Muslim houses and due to little support from the district administration of Patiala, the wakf board could not take control of the mosque till today.

Meanwhile, due to heavy rain in 2004 a wall of the mosque fell and then the illegal occupant demolished the entire mosque and the debris has remained there since then. Whenever local Muslims tried to rebuild the mosque and take control of it, the illegal occupant along with some members of the majority community prevented them from doing so.

“The local Muslims decided to reconstruct the mosque and got No Objection Certificate from Punjab Wakf Board vide no.31ESD/Pb/4072-74 dated 18/10/2011 to rebuild the demolished mosque on own cost, but the Muslims of Nabha were stopped and forced to quit the site with threats of dire consequences by the illegal occupant,” Adv. Javed Afzal, a resident of the area, told TCN over phone. He further said the police did not help them and did not provide any protection.

“The Muslims of Nabha complained to Police but their demand for police protection is lying unheard up till now due to the influence of the illegal occupant. So the minority community members had to abandon the construction work to avoid tension created at the site,” Adv. Afzal informed.

He said there are around 200 houses of Muslims in the Nabha subdivision which has about a population of two lakh. The Aapo Aap locality, however, has just 25-30 houses of Muslims – they are from Malerkotla district of Punjab besides Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. He alleged that “the wakf board has been weak, rather corrupt and could not repossess the mosques which they won in court.”

“In Nabha alone there were five such mosques won by the wakf board. But they could not take control of them. After change of some hands they were ultimately converted into gurudwaras,” said Adv. Afzal.

The Punjab Wakf Board admits they could not take control of some mosques even after winning the case. Talking to TCN, Izhar Alam, IPS (Retd. DGP), confirmed the case of Aapo Aap mosque. He admitted the board won the case but could not repossess it. He, however, added that the mosque was not taken control of because only a few houses of Muslims are there and a situation like communal riot had been created.

“Local Muslims wanted to rebuild it after it fell down in 2004 but members of the majority community did not allow them. In fact within no time communal tension spread in entire Nabha. The majority community even threatened to throw out the Muslim population from Nabha. SP and DSP called me to say the entire area is on the verge of fire. What should I protect – mosque or the town? I ask them protect the town as you cannot protect the mosque any way,” said Alam.

He said areas of Jaats and those who have come from Pakistan do not allow to build new mosque or take control of old mosques.

However, he said he will again make efforts to rebuild the Aapo Aap mosque.

Meanwhile, Adv. Javed Afzal has already sent letter to National Commission for Minorities and Ministry of Minority Affairs informing them about the case.

He has urged them to “save minority community members from the illegal intruders spreading communalism and encroaching upon the Wakf area of Mosque building illegal drain on the pretext of widening the street,” reads his letter to minority minister.

“Since it is a genuine case of harassment and act of suppression of minority community, kindly use your good offices to help in the matter to build two century old mosque under police protection,” Adv. Afzal wrote.