Communalism

BJP MP's Claim of Illegal Mosques False, Says Minorities Commission's Fact-Finding Team

Most of the 54 allegedly illegal religious buildings associated with a particular minority community that Parvesh Verma had delineated were in fact, legal. Some were vacant, and none on encroached land.

The Delhi Minorities Commission has stated that there are “sufficient grounds to initiate legal proceedings” against West Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party MP Parvesh Verma, who it believes was responsible for triggering communal discord.

The panel made the statement on Thursday after a fact-finding committee formed by it found Verma’s claim regarding illegal mosques, graveyards, mazaars and madrasas springing up all over the constituency to be “false”.

The report, titled Religious Spaces in and around West Delhi: A Fact-Finding Report, was prepared by a five-member team led by social activist Owais Sultan. Based on the team’s findings, the Commission said Verma and others had made false claims and spread rumours to target a particular community and create communal disharmony in Delhi.

The Commission further said the fact-finding committee had recommended that a complaint be filed against Verma with the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee “as it is clearly found that he has violated his oath of office.”

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The panel said none of the “masjids, mazaars, madrasas, or graveyards” that were named by Verma were found to be illegally built. Neither were they encroachments on government land, as claimed by him.

List of 54 ‘illegal’ properties

The BJP MP had on June 18 claimed that there was “mushrooming of mosques on government land” in Delhi, especially in his constituency.

Another BJP MP from Delhi and the party’s unit president, Manoj Tiwari, had also made a similar allegation about other areas of Delhi, the Commission said.

Since Verma had gone to the Lieutenant Governor on July 10 with a list of 54 properties and demanded an inquiry, the Commission decided to probe the matter at its own end as well.

‘Sense of fear in Muslims’

The Delhi Minorities Commission said these allegations had created a sense of fear in the Muslim community. With the list of allegedly unauthorised or illegally built mosques, madrasas and graveyards being made public by Verma and attracting print and electronic media’s attention, the Commission said there was a fear that these would create a sense of hatred towards Muslims in Delhi.

The Committee, which had submitted its report to Commission chairman Zafarul Islam Khan on July 30, was constituted to probe Verma’s allegations on June 24. The committee visited 58 mosques, three mazaars, three madrasas, three graveyards and one imambada.

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It went to all the sites listed by Verma in five districts of Delhi, namely New Delhi, South West, West, North West and North.

In its report, the committee said two graveyards, two mosques and one madrasa were found to belong to the Delhi Waqf Board. One graveyard was allocated by the Delhi government’s Urban Development department in 2005 but was not in use since November 2017. Most of the graves were found to have been “vandalised and desecrated”.

Allotment awaited

Seven mosques were on land allotted either by the Delhi Development Authority, or the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, or a Gram Sabha. The boards of two of the mosques had applied for more land as the covered area exceeded the allotted land.

In another 23 mosques and the one imambada, the report said, “applications for allotment of land were submitted to the land owning authority by the committee of the respective masjids”. These had largely come up in resettlement colonies where a number of people were shifted from central Delhi. These applications were pending.

Six mosques and one madrasa had come up on “private land” which had been purchased from either the land owning authorities or a third party.

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In the case of one mosque and one mazaar, the team found the cases to be sub-judice in the courts.

The report also “observed that two mazaars were illegally being converted into temples.”

It also noted that two madrasas had come up on rented land, eight of the mentioned places did not exist or were vacant plots, one mosque in Sultanpuri had been referred to twice in the list and a mosque built over 400 years ago – in 1617 and which comes under the Delhi Waqf Board,  was also named as one having come up on government land.

The report stated that most of the mosques, madrasas, mazaars and graveyards mentioned in the list by Verma “belong to the communities, families and individuals who were displaced or relocated in 1947 Partition, the 1976 Emergency and the 2004 Commonwealth Games”.

Proliferation of temples

The Commission said while Muslims were being targeted through such propaganda, “there is a proliferation of temples cropping up on pavements, inside the public parks, under a tree and even illegally occupying various roads.”

The Commission said religious structures exist even inside public spaces like police stations, municipal corporation offices, Archaeological Survey of India protected monuments and also in government offices like in Vikas Bhawan, where its own office is located.

The report said: “These places are supposed to remain neutral but are showcasing more and more majoritarian beliefs and culture whereby forcing others to internalise such practices. Though such practices have been called out by different authorities, they have met with tremendous resistance both from public and political class.”

The Commission said the team has recommended that “the Supreme Courts orders on removal or relocation or regularisation of unauthorised religious structures must be complied with at the earliest by the concerned authorities in Delhi.”

The Commission’s chairperson said he will submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor and other authorities.