New Delhi: The Archaeological Survey of India has banned Muslims from offering namaz at the mosque located at the premises of the Taj Mahal in Agra on all days except Fridays, the Times of India reported on Monday. On Sunday, the ASI reportedly locked the tank where devotees clean themselves before offering prayers.
According to the report, even the imam and staff of the mosque have been asked to turn up only on Fridays.
ASI officials have reportedly claimed that they are implementing the Supreme Court’s July order where the court had ruled that only local residents would be allowed to offer namaz on Fridays at the mosque located within the complex.
The court had reasoned that the monument is one of the seven wonders of the world, and should be preserved. “Why for such prayers they should go to the Taj Mahal?” asked the bench of Justices A. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. “There are other mosques also. They can offer their prayers there.”
Superintending archaeologist, ASO (Agra circle) Vasant Swarankar said that the new rule is “as per the order of the apex court”.
On Fridays, the Taj Mahal is closed to the general public. Agra residents are allowed to offer namaz at the mosque between noon and 2 pm on Fridays after showing identity proof.
In January, citing security reasons, the Agra additional district magistrate had barred non-residents of Agra from offering prayers at the mosque. Calling it illegal and arbitrary, Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, the president of Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee, had challenged this order in the Supreme Court.
Zaidi told Times of India that the party in power at both the centre and the state, has an “anti-Muslim mindset” and that he would be meeting with ASI officials to sort out the issue.
The Supreme Court has time and again come down heavily on the ASI for its failure to take appropriate steps to protect and preserve the iconic Taj Mahal.
The Supreme Court in October 2017 approved eight points of the resolution passed by the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple committee in Ujjain to stop deterioration of the lingam. The resolutions included limiting the amount of water offered to 500 ml and covering the lingam fully during the famous Bhasma Aarti. This was in consonance with the recommendation of an expert committee of the Archaeological Survey of India and the Geological Survey of India towards preservation and maintenance of the temple.