On Saturday, the Dahod Smart City administration in Gujarat demolished a century-old mosque along with seven other places of worship. The demolition was part of a road widening project under the Smart City initiative.
Despite attempts by the Masjid Trust to seek relief from the Gujarat High Court and produce land records, the mosque was razed after their efforts were unsuccessful. The demolition operation commenced at 4.30 am amidst a large police presence.
Around 450 police personnel were deployed as part of a two-tier security arrangement for the demolition at 4.30 am. According to officials, the mosque was demolished in a peaceful and amicable manner.
“The Trust had sought time on its own until Friday to produce land records. The administration conceded to the request. But on Friday, the records it brought were not reliable,” Dahod Superintendent of Police Balram Meena, who is part of the district-level panel for the implementation of the Smart City Project, told The Indian Express.
“On Friday evening, a meeting was held between the mosque members with the sub-divisional magistrate, Prant Officer, and chief officer of the municipality, among others, where the Trust members agreed to evacuate the premises on being given the option to demolish the structure on their own. We did not have to enter the premises as they had already evacuated the structure. The police deployment will remain but we do not anticipate any trouble,” Meena added.
The Trust, in their petition to the Gujarat High Court, highlighted that notices were issued to nearby shops for alleged encroachment under the Gujarat Municipalities Act. These shops were demolished on May 15. However, the authorities proceeded to demolish additional shops belonging to the petitioner Trust without providing any prior notice.
A member of the Masjid committee said, “We were informed by the administration on Monday the documents will have to be produced by Friday otherwise the demolition will be done after the Jumma prayers. The High Court too did not grant us relief. So on Friday afternoon, we were told to remove our belongings. When the authorities had razed six feet of the compound earlier this week, we had already removed some of our important belongings.”
Due to the current summer vacation at the Gujarat High Court, the petition has not yet been officially registered.
According to individuals familiar with the matter, the Trust intends to approach the court, requesting the maintenance of the status quo ante after the demolition. They argue that since the mosque was a Waqf property, the approval of the Waqf Board should have been obtained before taking such action. The Trust also stated that the mosque had been present on a portion of their land since 1926, and the land itself was registered in 1953.
Shortly after the demolition of the mosque, four temples and three other dargahs were also demolished.