By Zafar Aafaq
On July 14, the Jumma Masjid in Erandol, a town in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district, stayed shut for the Friday prayers. “This is the first time in my life that Friday prayers were not held at the mosque,” said Wasim Asghar Khan, a 32-year-old resident of the town.
Three days ago, the Jalgaon district collector Aman Mittal had issued an order restraining the entry of worshippers in the mosque.
The restrictions came almost two months after a local Hindu group, the Pandavwada Sangharsh Samiti, approached the collector, claiming that the mosque resembles a temple, that it had been under the control of “Jain and Hindu communities since time immemorial” and that the “encroachment by Muslims” on the structure must be removed. If their demands were not met, they threatened to start an agitation.
The mosque is widely believed to date back to the reign of Alauddin Khilji, the 13th-century ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. The mosque trustees claim that they have documents to prove that the place of worship existed in 1861. “The mosque is a Waqf property managed by a local trust and prayers have been held there without interruption for centuries,” said Karim Salar, an activist and educationist in Jalgaon.
A Wakf is an institution or property dedicated for a religious or charitable purpose by a person who professes Islam.
The mosque is also called the Pandavwada Masjid. Altaf Khan, a member of the trust, explained that the name alludes to a local legend that the Pandavas, the central characters of the Mahabharata, had spent some months in Erandol during their exile. A wada refers to large, two-storied traditional residences built around open courtyards in Maharashtra…