NEW DELHI – A little known mosque in the national capital called Shahi Masjid Zabta Ganj near India Gate is currently raising passion among the Muslim community. A section of the community has taken up the cause to protect it from possible demolition. This section apprehends that the mosque is going to be removed as part of the ongoing redevelopment project to revamp the Central Vista, India’s central administrative area that includes Parliament Building and Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Imam of the mosque, Asad Khan Falahi, has debunked all such rumours. He told Clarion India that he has spoken to senior officials, including engineers, of the redevelopment project. They have no plan to touch the mosque. Falahi wondered as to how the rumour had spread. “People’s concern for mosques is understandable. But they are making claims without checking facts,” Falahi said.
During the last few days, Muslims are being called on social media to rise up to save the mosque. Many of the posts have tagged Amanatullah Khan, the Aam Admi Party MLA representing Muslim-dominated Okhla area who is also the chairman of the Delhi Waqf Board. The Zabta Ganj mosque comes under the Waqf Board.
Amanatullah has responded to the appeal by writing a post on his Facebook wall saying that he has written a letter to the Prime Minister regarding the Zabta Ganj mosque as well as two other mosques within the Central Vista – one in the Krishi Bhavan and the other in the premises of the Vice President’s residence. The community is concerned about the fate of these two mosques as well. But the kind of passion Zabta Ganj has raised is unprecedented.
The mosque, a heritage structure built in 1740, was constructed by Zabta Khan, who is better known as the son of Najib ad-Dawlah, the Rohilla chieftain who played a crucial role in the third battle of Panipat against the Marathas. Zabta Ganj rose to power during the reign of Shah Alam II. Zabta Ganj was a cluster of seven small settlements around here stretching all the way up to then Raisina village, now the seat of India’s power.
Barring this mosque, the area was acquired by the British for New Delhi and people were resettled in villages across Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. “After the people were shifted, this remained as an abandoned ruin till the 1960s.
When Dr Zakir Hussain became the President, he took proactive interest and started the use of the ruins for prayers,” said Falahi, who has been Imam of the mosque since 2004, after the death of his father who was the first Imam to be appointed in 1980.
Though the shiny white building of the mosque is prominently located at the heart of Delhi, yet it generally goes unnoticed under the shadow of its more famous neighbour, the India Gate. This is the location where every major event in Delhi, including the Republic Day Parade, takes place. But the mosque remains hidden behind trees as well as barricades put up for security reasons. Masjid Zabta Ganj has been frequented by India’s presidents, ministers and members of parliament.
In recent days while people were making all sorts of claims about the mosque, two sensible members of the community Mazin Khan and Abul Aala Subhani took the initiative to fact-check the claims. They contacted the Imam of the mosque and gathered the documents related to the Central Vista redevelopment project. They found that the mosque was not part of the redesigning plan. Subhani wrote an article in Urdu assuring people that there was nothing to worry. Their initiative is laudable. Many a time passions are raised on mere hearsay. The case of Masjid Zabta Ganj is a perfect example of that.