Demand to rebuild Gareeb Nawaz mosque grows after UP govt demolition drive

A photograph showing Muslims praying at the mosque in Barabanki [Courtesy: Syed Farooq Ahmad]

Prominent Muslim organisations have demanded from the government to rebuild the Gareeb Nawaz Al Maroof Mosque in the central Uttar Pradesh town of Barabanki, which was demolished by the local administration on Monday, defying the High Court order.

The demolition of the 100-year-old mosque came into limelight after UK-based newspaper The Guardian reported about it on Tuesday.

Reacting to the report, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMBPL) demanded that the mosque should be rebuilt at the same spot and the erring officers punished for pulling down the structure defying the court order.

“We demand that the government must stop to shift the debris of demolished mosque structure, maintain the status quo. No other structure should be attempted to be constructed there. Those officers who committed this illegal activity should be suspended. The matter should be investigated by a sitting High Court judge. Moreover, it is incumbent upon the government to rebuild the mosque at the same spot and hand it over to Muslims,” said acting general secretary of AIMPLB, Khalid Saifullah Rahmani in a statement day after the demolition of the structure.

The administration of Ramsnehi Ghat have demolished the mosque after sending a notice to the mosque committee members on 17 March in which it invoked a High Court judgment of 2016 which prohibits the religious activities at the public places. In its reply to the notice, the mosque authority made it clear that the mosque is not located on road and street and it does not create any inconvenience in the public movement. But the administration have not taken into account the facts mentioned by the mosque authority in their reply and bulldozed the decade old religious place under the tight security.

Expressing his strong anger over the demolition, Rahmani said that the officers have martyred the mosque in the darkness of night under tight security without any legal justification. Even though, the mosque committee members filed the reply to the notice sent to them, “Without informing the mosque authority, the officials took this oppressive step” to remove the mosque from there, said Rahmani.

An old photo of the mosque that was demolished on Monday | Photo: special arrangement

Another Muslim organisation Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) also demanded to rebuild the mosque and punish those officials who pulled it down.

Talking to Maktoob about the demolition of the mosque, National Secretary of JIH, Malik Mutasim Khan said that the administration’s action was atrocious and provocative.

“This is the open violation of the laws by the law enforcer. This is illegal action committed by the government. And we condemn that. The government should refrain from such actions. It should allow rebuild the mosque at the spot accepting its mistake,” he said.

“After the independence, it has been recognised legally that all religious places should be allowed in their original status. This mosque is 100-year-old when India was not even partitioned. It is being said now that the mosque is situated on the government land even though Muslims were offering namaz there. The administration should not involve in such illegal activities,” Khan argues.

 “Since they have done now, what is the solution to this? The solution is that the mosque should remain there. There is no shortage of land in the country. Offices can be built anywhere. Demolishing the mosque after declaring it government property is injustice. When the administration is itself involved in committing injustices, what can be done? We ask the court that the government compensate the mistake and rebuild the mosque,” said Khan.

He also directed his organisation’s legal group Association for Protection of Civil Right (APCR) to coordinate other Muslim groups like Sunni Waqf Board and AIMPLB in restoring the mosque.

Sunni Waqf Board chief Zufar Farooqi also demanded the restoration of the mosque and announced to move to the court against the administration’s action.

“I strongly condemn the patently illegal and high-handed action of Tehsil and District Administration, Ramsnehi Ghat, District Barabanki, particularly that of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Ramsanehi Ghat, by which they have demolished a 100-year-old mosque situated near Tehsil compound…in the name of alleged removal of encroachment. This act is against law, misuse of power and in utter violation of clear orders dated April 24, 2021 passed by the Honourable High Court. The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board will immediately approach the Honourable High Court demanding restoration of mosque, (a) high-level judicial inquiry and action against the guilty officers,” said Faruqi in a statement.

Popular Front of Insia has also demanded immediate reconstruction of the mosque and strict action against the officials responsible for the demolition. Popular Front said it will provide all support to the legal struggle for getting the mosque rebuilt and bringing the responsible officials to justice.

“This blatant violation of the district administration is akin to that of Hindutva goons who enjoy impunity under Yogi and have no respect for law or people’s rights. It’s to be remembered here that it was through such manipulations of lower courts and local administration that Hindutva forces initiated their campaign against Babri Masjid. Unless the Muslim community and civil society don’t come forward to resist such attempts, the country is going to witness more attacks of this fashion,” read a statement issued by  Popular Front Chairman O M A Salam.

“Chief Minister’s Office in Uttar Pradesh has committed Contempt of Court. Status quo should be maintained, all officials responsible should be suspended immediately. If necessary, AIMPLB must approach SC. This is a blatant violation of right to freedom of religion,” AIMIM supremo and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said.

“CM Office in UP’s overseen large scale death and destruction. 1621 teachers on poll duty were killed by COVID. Over 2000 corpses have lined Ganga’s banks. This masjid demolition is not only violation of constitution but also a poor attempt to divert attention from his abject misrule,” said the vocal Muslim parliamentarian.

Social media activists also launched a trend on Twitter demanding the restoration of the mosque on Thursday. So far, the government did not respond to the demand the restoration of the mosque. The Ramsnehi administration continues to maintain the mosque was “illegal structure” without taking into account the clarifications from the mosque authority.

Eight Muslims booked by UP Police

Meanwhile on Thursday, the police at Ram Snehi Ghat booked committee members of Ghareeb Nawaz Mosque for fraud and cheating to get the mosque registered as waqf property.

In the FIR, the police named committee president Mushtaq Ali, vice president Waqeel Ahmad, secretary Mohamad Aneesh, members Dastageer, Afzaal, Mohammad Naseem, and then UP Sunni Central Waqf Board Inspector Mohammad Taha.

The FIR was registered on the complaint of Sonu Kumar, who is said to be the District Minority Welfare Officer.

“This is to bring to your notice that these people formed a committee and then through cheating and fraud, got a structure registered as a Waqf property on January 5, 2019. The structure is within the Ram Sanehi Ghar tehsil and is opposite the SDM residence,” claimed Kumar in his complaint alleging a conspiracy.