Sunday, March 3, 2024

Delhi: Overnight demolition of Sufi shrine leaves caretaker, regular visitors in dismay

On 26 April 2023, the grave of Syed Nanhe Miyan Chishti, a spiritual figure, located at the end corner of the Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts at New Delhi‘s Mandi House was demolished.

In the early morning, after the street vendors started installing their stalls in and around, they noticed that the grave was missing. Later on, the deployment of paramilitary was done so that no one assembled around the demolished shrine in protest.

The caretaker, Syed Anwar Ali Sabri, was informed by a person in the morning at around 8:00 am that the grave had been demolished at midnight and asked him about the details if he would have been aware of the demolition.

“I was informed by a person via phone call that the grave had been demolished at midnight and I felt like everything was taken from me,” Sabri said.

“I did not receive any notice from any authority regarding the demolition. It took place without any prior notice or any information to me. After receiving the call, I visited the shrine, seeing the condition, it felt like nothing before existed there.”

Sabri has been taking care of the shrine for over 75 years. His forefathers have also taken care of it and he was the seventh generation on the task.

“In 1975, I renovated it with a fencing wall and tiles”, Sabri told Maktoob.

Eight months back, the fences and walls of the shrine were demolished and tiles were removed. Later on, the sitting space was demolished to not make it evident anything existed there and replaced with plants, locals claimed.

Shazia Batool, a regular visitor and a student at the National School of Drama says, “I enrolled in NSD five years back, and since then I used to visit the shrine, recite prayers and offer my salutation. But a few months back, I saw, the authorities demolished the shrine in the name of beautification and yesterday I saw the grave has also been bulldozed. We have no idea who has taken it and why it has been done. One of my friends has filed an FIR against the demolition seeking justice and an answer behind the demolition”.

“When we were at the Barakhamba Road police station, we were told Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has done it and we went to the ASI where we were told we haven’t done it and also, it doesn’t come under their jurisdiction. They are just misleading the people and not telling who has actually done it. They just want the people to believe nothing existed there,” Batool told Maktoob.

After Sabri approached ASI, NDMC and Delhi police, no one claimed responsibility for who sanctioned the demolition. This week, a report from The Indian Express found that a medieval monument in Delhi was demolished to make way for a mansion for the CEO of the Delhi Jal Board.

The monument, a Mahal dating back to 1418, finds mention in the ASI’s List of Muhammadan and Hindu monuments.

“Every Thursday, visitors of different faiths used to come and attend the qawwali sessions. In October, we used to host the Uroos of Syed Nanhe Miyan Chisti with religious fervour. But now the shrine has been demolished leaving no clue of its existence,” Sabri lamented.

“I had all documents of the shrine, permissions for hosting festivities or urs and also I had the permission of rebuilding the shrine as its fences and tiles were removed and everything was removed eight months back and saplings were planted over it so that it looks like a walking space.”

Syed Anwar Ali Sabri

“I approached the higher authorities to seek permission to bring it back to its original state, I got that but now the grave has also been demolished and I have to visit the pillar to posts to seek answers to my questions and who I will hold accountable for it.”

“I left my government job so that I can serve my whole life in the name of this shrine but that has been taken away from me,” Sabri added.

Not only Sabri is being affected, but even the regular visitors are also being emotionally hurt who have found a connection with the shrine.

Sanjeeda, another visitor, said that she had felt a connection with the shrine and no authority or government has any right to demolish the worship places of any faith.

“I have been coming here for a long time and I passed out from NSD in 2008. Since I used to come here, I felt a connection with the shrine, a connection of comfort and peace but it has hurt me deeply after hearing and seeing it has been demolished. In India, these worship places are over the religion and caste where we go and feel happy, it is like some spiritual feeling.”

Afsara, another visitor, is angered by the fact that no one is taking responsibility and no one is bothered by the demolition.

“We can do nothing, we can question but we will not get answers. We only want to know what order it was and what was the reason and for that I have filed an FIR. We want to know why without any prior notice, the shrine and grave were demolished. It was not creating any problems for passers-by, there was a separate area for walking. It was a shrine then it was brought down and it was a 250-year-old shrine and nobody is caring and bothering about it,” Afsara said.

Another visitor, Jordan says, “From the past few months, developments are happening and I do not understand what kind of developments are happening where they have to demolish religious sites. I do not understand what they are getting by demolishing religious sites whether they are temples or shrines. People have faith, they come and offer salutations. Even whenever I used to come across, I used to do the same. I do not understand what development it is and what kind of beautification the government is doing so that they have to demolish these sites”.

“It is not only happening in Delhi, it is happening across the nation, and no one is raising voices against it. Even if I say then who will listen to me, no one,” Jordan added.

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