Hasan Askari Mosque of Saharanpur
Some facts to shed the light on the other side the picture
Syyed Mansoor Agha
Ediulfit’r festivity this year was marred in Saharanpur due to curfew imposed after violent clashes in the intervening night of 26th and 27th June 2014 (27-28 Ramadhan 1435 H) and following morning. In the center of controversy is a piece of land measuring 535.69 Sq. Meters where Hasan Askari Mosque existed. Here are some hard facts regarding the controversy. The records show existence of Mosque and its use even after the surrounding property change hands before it reached to present owners.
Sheikh Hasan Askari, a Zamindar, before migrating to Pakistan, sold his two adjacent residential properties, known as “Peeli Kothi” and “Lal Kothi” on Ambala Road on 30.10.1948 to two ladies Mrs Mansha Devi wife of Pandit Padam Parasad Advocate and Rajwati Devi w/o Pt. Jiyananda.
In the sale deed, total area of the properties is mentioned 1 Beegha 8 Biswa (equaling to 3427.20 Sq Yards or 2865.48 Sq Meters). It is explicitly mentioned in the sale deed executed by Hasan Askari that a “Pukhta Masjid” exists in Peeli Kothi, and its status shall remain unchanged. The wordings in Urdu are :“Masjid Pukkhta badstoor qayam rahegi”. The Masjid consisted of a platform (Musalla) for Salat, space for ablution (Wazoo khana) and a room (Hujra) for Imam’s residence. The total area of the Masjid is 535.69 sq. Meters which is not included in the sale deed.
In 1958 property was divided between the two co-owners. Mansha Devi got Peeli Kothi and Lal Kothi came in sole ownership of Rajwati Devi. Later in 1980 through a court order the owner ship of Peeli Kothi was transferred to Pt. Padam Parasad, who is the husband of Mansha Devi.
According to Anwar Ali Advocate, the Masjid was mainly used by the staff and family members of the owners. The entrance is common from the main gate of the sprawling house. Mr. Riazul Hasan, Editor, Aaina Mazahir Uloom (Waqf) says that the Mosque remain opened even after change of ownership from Askari to Pandits. The place is close to Railway Station and travellers frequently used it. Advocate Ali described Pt. Padam Parasad as a thoroughly gentle-man therefore I find no contradiction in both the statements.
Since the couple of Padam Parasad and Mansha Devi has no male child, after their death the property was transferred to their grandchildren (from their daughter) Anurag etc according their will. In January 2001, the ownership again changed hands from Anurag etc to Guru Singh Sabha (GSS) through two separate sale deeds of 2186.08 Sq. Meters and 143.71 Meters (total 2329.07 Sq. Meters). The area under these sale deeds also does not cover the land under Mosque complex (535.69 Sq. Meters). Since land of Mosque was not a part of original deed executed in favors of Pandits, their hires cannot have legal right to sale it. However GSS claims otherwise.
According the statement of Naib Sheher Quazi Nadim Akhtar published in IE (July 29) and information provided by Mr. Riazul Hasan to this contributor, the Mosque is registered with Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board (UPSCWB) under section 36 of Wakf Act 1995, as “Masjid Askari Hasan Wakf”. The registration number is “1858/Saharanpur”.
Survey records of Assistant Wakf Commissioner also mentioned the “Hasan Askari Mosque” under reference number “AWC/1102, dated 17/08/1984”. The AWC survey record is 27 years older than GSS purchased the property from Anurag etc inherited form their maternal grandparents. Municipal records (years 1968-75. 1975-80. 1980-86; 1997-2003 and 2003-2009) also show this property as “Masjid Maulvi Sheikh Hasan Askari”.
Furthermore the existence of the Mosque and its registration with SCWB is an agreed fact. GSS petitioned against this registration in Allahabad High Court (petition number 39313/2011) through one Mr. Guru Nam Singh Sahni. Refusing to adjudicate upon the petition of GSS, the court directed the petitioners to go to SCWB if they have any grievance against the Boards action. The records show that GSS neither appealed against the Court Order nor knocked the doors of SCWB. Instead GSS approached Saharanpur Development Authority to sanction its plan to construct Langar on newly acquired land.
After some concerned citizens of the city get the wind of approval of GSS site plan by the Authority on 12.08.2010, and that Mosque land has also been included in the plan, they filed a petition under section 156(3) in the court of CJM of Saharanpur. The CJM passed an interim order against the construction till adjudication of the complaint. The case is still pending before the court.
As a via media, GSS filed a civil suit number 744/2010- GSS v/s Sardar Parvinder Singh. The intention was to get an ex-parte virdict against the existence of the Mosque. In this case neither SCWB was made a party nor the Management Committee of the Mosque, which is mandatory under section 83, 85, 89 and 90 of Wakf Act 1995. One Mr. Abdul Wahab, who was Head of defunct committee, was made party in his personal capacity and not as the functionary of the management committee. For dubious reasons Mr. Wahab failed to faithfully stand for the cause of Mosque and an affidavit was filed on his behalf suppressing the facts. He is no more to tell what compelled him to do so. However this trick worked and GSS succeeded to get virtually an ex-parte verdict on 15.05.2013 from against the existence of the Mosque. This is the verdict which is the base of GSS claims that court has settled the case in its favor.
Besides case in CJM court another suit number ‘58/2013’ titled ‘Wakf Khudawand Tala v/s GSS’, filed by locals is pending in the Wakf Tribunal Court of Civil Judge, Saharanpur. Therefore it is not true that court cases have been settled in favor of GSS.
At least two civil cases are pending in Saharanpur Courts against the claim of GSS on Mosque land. The original owner Molvi Hasan Askari did not sold the land under use of Mosque, which is registered as Wakf property therefore No person can sale or purchase the land in question.
Furthermore, Section 4 (1) of the “The Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act-1991” clearly states- “It is hereby declared that the character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it on that day”.
GSS step to go ahead for construction on the land without clearing legal hurdles in the darkness of night smells foul. However it is not a case of “Sikh Community against Muslim community”. It is a case of ill-intention and ill maneuver of a few on the helms of GSS. There are enough official records to prove that the place was used as a mosque. We can only wish that good wisdom prevails upon all. It will be a good example of harmony if our members of GSS feel comfortable of the existence of a Mosque adjacent to “Langar” of the Gurudwara. It will tru tribute to the legacy of 5th Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji who reported to extend an invitation in person to a Muslim Sufi Mian Mir Saheb to lay the foundation of Harminder Saheb. It is assessed that clashes in Saharanpur caused several loss of several hundred millions to the property and business besides creating distrust between two community.
Writer is Gen. Sec. Forum for Civil Rights