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The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down

The mosque was demolished by locals under ‘pressure’ after understanding they didn’t have the necessary permissions.

Updated
India
6 min read
The mosque was demolished by locals under ‘pressure’ after understanding they never had the necessary permissions.
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Visuals of a mosque being demolished in Khatauli town of west UP’s Muzaffarnagar district are being shared on social media over the last few days, with allegations that do little to reflect ground realities or versions.

In an attempt to understand why the mosque was pulled down, The Quint spoke to locals, eyewitnesses, the former owners of the said land, the Sunni Waqf Board and the district magistrate.

The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
What we found was that the locals had built the mosque on Waqf land without permissions from the board or the local administration. What we found is that the locals were spoken to about the illegality of the mosque for weeks. What we found is that the owner of the land and the locals had come together and accepted that the structure was built without permissions and ‘under the pressure of the administration’ themselves decided to bring the mosque down.

“In the process we were able to preserve the tin sheds and the prayer mattresses that we will use in the other mosque,” Qazi Nabeel Ahmed, whose family had owned the land donated to the Sunni Waqf Board 40 years ago, told this reporter.

‘Permission to Build Cemetery, Not Mosque’: Former Owners and Sunni Waqf Board

When the land was given by Nabeel’s family to the Sunni Waqf Board about fifty years ago, it was given under the category of Alal Khair. Waqf itself means you are no more the owner of the land and Alal Khair means giving it for the purpose of public welfare.

The particular purpose of the use of the land was to be a cemetery (qabristan).

The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
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The Sunni Waqf Board chief Zufar Farooqui confirmed the same.

“The land was registered as a graveyard with us, that is a fact. It is also a fact that they did not take permission from the board or the local authorities. They should take permission from the board and the administration and build the mosque in the future. With permissions there would have been no problem,” he said.

Nabeel and his family accept they or the locals did not have permission from the Waqf Board or the local administration to construct a mosque on that land. “It was a cemetery and a makeshift mosque was being built on it, it was not a mosque yet. We would have asked for permission from the administration to build the mosque, but before that lockdown and the second wave of COVID took over. We had not applied for permissions officially, that is true,” Nabeel said to The Quint from Khatauli.

He says how he knew of these administrative issues for a while and as a consequence spoke to the locals present there as well.

"The administration said that we needed permission to build it, which we accept we did not have. So the message was given to the locals that this was going to happen,” Nabeel says.

While he was not present on the spot on 23 May, he says it was under pressure from the government that the locals themselves got together to pull the mosque down.

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The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

'Emotional, Angry and Upset as We Broke Mosque Ourselves’: Locals

Now to know what happened we spoke to an eyewitness, Qazi Kafeel, and a local Amir Anjum who were aware of the developments.

On 22 May, a day before the mosque was pulled down by locals, the authorities had come to the site and asked questions. “They came around asking who is responsible, I said I was. I told them how everyone had got together and constructed the mosque,” Kafeel said.

Then they went on and on telling the locals how the mosque was built without permissions. Many got emotional, some got angry and others were scared of the presence of the police and administration officials. “They threatened us and said if we do not ourselves pull the structure down, then they will have to use the machine and also file cases against us. People were scared and angry and we did not want to go to jail. We also are very poor without stable jobs, so we eventually agreed,” Kafeel said.

The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
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Getting emotional Kafeel says while they knew they did not have permissions, he wishes they were given a right of response before being asked to tear the mosque down. “Massjid mein namaaz sikhate the, Quran sikhate the, deen ki baat karte the. Paak jagah thi humare liye (In the mosque, namaz was taught, Quran was taught, we would talk about Islam. It was a pure place was for us),” Kafeel makes an emotive point.

‘Will Investigate Those Communalising Issue and Disturbing Peace’: SDM Khatauli

Now while Kafeel says there was no right of response given, the local administration vehemently denies these claims.

"Since 1 March when some work was happening in the area, the administration officials had gone to the area and told them this construction was illegal. This back and forth with the locals had been happening for a while. Even then, like now, they agreed that the construction was illegal," Khatauli SDM Indrakant Dwivedi said to The Quint.

The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

As accepted by the former owners of the land as well, the specific purpose of the land was it to be used as a cemetery, but it was being used as a makeshift mosque. This was also reiterated by the Muzaffarnagar Minority Affairs Officer who said that the land belonged to the Sunni Waqf Board and an illegal structure (mosque) was built there. “We also called them to the police station and spoke to them. They agreed that the structure was illegal and went on and pulled it down.”

Dwivedi also says, “When we got to know about this and spoke to them we asked if they had written to the waqf, if they had got the map approved, if they had informed the district administration. They had done none of this. Then they proceeded to say they will themselves remove the structure and they themselves brought the structure down,” Dwivedi said adding that those who brought the mosque down themselves are not the one talking to the media, but those who have vested interests are making statements that are disturbing the peace in the area.

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The Ground Reality Behind Why Muzaffarnagar Mosque Was Torn Down
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

“We are talking to them and finding out who they are, we will investigate the people who are doing this,” he said adding it is the administrations objective job to ensure there are no illegal constructions. “If they had permissions what leg would we have to stand on?,” he asks.

Talking about taking action against those spreading ‘misinformation’, Dwivedi said, “No one in Khatauli town will say this was illegal. It is only some people on Twitter with agendas who are spreading misinformation. We are contemplating action against them. This is an attempt to disturb peace and higher offices have taken note.”

Farooqui also said he had read about how the matter was being written and spoken about on social media and said, “Regarding the communalisation of the issue, that is incorrect.”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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