By Zafar Aafaq
At 3 am on August 20, Wajahat Ali was fast asleep when his phone rang. “The police force and bulldozers have arrived,” said the caller, an imam of a mosque.
Ali rushed to the Mamu-Bhanja mazar on Rani Jhansi Road in Delhi’s Jhandewalan. He is the caretaker of the mazar – the mosque whose imam had telephoned him is located within its premises.
A mazar, often also colloquially known as a dargah, refers to a shrine built over the grave of a revered Muslim figure, such as a saint, whose name it usually bears. According to Mustafa Mansoori, a Muslim activist who has been raising his voice against the demolition of mazars in Delhi, the Mamu-Bhanja shrine is around 250 years old. “My family has been taking care of this shrine for the last six generations,” said Ali, who is 20 years old.
He recounted that police had blocked off both sides of the road. “The bulldozers were ready to approach the shrine,” he said.
Ali said that he asked officials of the Delhi government’s Public Works Department who were present at the site to stop the demolition, but that they did not listen. “They came at night because they thought they might encounter resistance from people during the day,” Ali said.
This was a Sunday morning. Two days earlier, on August 18, Ali had received a notice claiming that parts of the shrine were encroaching on PWD land. The notice asked the mazar management to submit relevant records by 3 pm on August 19 to show that the “property is legitimately constructed”. But it also “requested” them to “remove the unauthorised encroachment” by the same day, failing which it would be removed “without further notice”.
Ali said he rushed to the PWD office the next day, August 19, to submit the documents pertaining to the shrine. The office accepted the documents, but that did not prevent the bulldozers from setting out early the next morning. “We thought they would consider the documents and wait for some days before taking any action,” Ali told Scroll. Instead, as he watched the bulldozers demolished a wall of the shrine. Then, he recounted, they lifted the debris and loaded it onto a truck, which transported it away.
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