Ground report: Demolition of structure stirs communal tension in Hyd as officials spar

The GHMC demolished the structure, locally known as Masjid-e-Ek-Khana, as part of ongoing road widening work, which resulted in protests from locals.
Ground report: Demolition of structure stirs communal tension in Hyd as officials spar
Ground report: Demolition of structure stirs communal tension in Hyd as officials spar
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The situation in and around Hyderabad’s Amberpet area remained tense on Monday morning with the main road dotted on either side by hordes of policemen. At one spot, barely a few hundred metres from the Amberpet police station, two large vans with water cannons on top stood parked amid construction debris. Barricades were put up all around the area and access to the spot was strictly restricted.

This was the spot that witnessed communal tension on Sunday evening after a structure, locally known as Masjid-e-Ek-Khana, was demolished earlier this week along with the Ashoor Khana Hazrat Abbas, as part of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s (GHMC) plans to widen the road.

The incident resulted in a large number of people gathering at the spot and also stone pelting between two religious groups on Sunday evening as an attempt was made to rebuild the structures. Senior officials of the Hyderabad police, including city Commissioner Anjani Kumar, rushed to the spot and dispersed the crowd that had gathered.

In the bylanes surrounding the spot, the incident is the sole topic of discussion among local residents. “There was constant tension from Sunday morning. They made us close our shops and patrolled the streets all night. It is only now that things are returning to normal,” says the owner of a chicken shop, opposite the spot under contention, where a group of people have gathered to discuss what panned out the previous day.

What happened

The entire incident can be traced back to May 2 when the GHMC demolished the structure, known as Masjid-e-Ek-Khana, as part of ongoing road widening work. The municipal body claimed that they had ‘bought’ the land from an individual and had even paid out compensation for the property.

This in turn saw many protests, with parties like the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) condemning the move and demanding that the structure be rebuilt. Led by senior AIMIM leader and Yakutpura MLA Ahmed Pasha Qadri, construction work for a new mosque began on Sunday, only to be halted after a Hindu group allegedly pelted stones and attempted to protest against the structure being rebuilt.

It was only after this, the locals claim, that things went downhill. Goshamahal MLA from the BJP Raja Singh soon arrived at the spot and was detained by the police. A video of him being held by the police was widely circulated on social media.

In a video statement released on Monday, Raja Singh said, “The GHMC has already paid Rs 2.5 crore as compensation to the person who sold the plot where the new mosque is coming up. Only after that, did demolition take place, that too for road widening. Why did they (AIMIM) remember the masjid only after the demolition? It’s only drama. I request the police to ensure that no new construction happens at the spot.”

Whose land is it?

While the GHMC claimed that the land belonged to a private individual, to whom compensation was also paid, the Wakf Board says that it has total rights over the plot.

Speaking to TNM, Wakf Board CEO Shahnawaz Qasim says, “The board’s position on this matter is very clear. We have a Survey Commissioner report from 1964 as well that shows that it is Wakf property.”

Last year, a similar attempt had been made to demolish the GHMC. At the time, the Board had shot off a letter to the municipal body and said that they had total claim over the plot. They also reiterated the claim by locals that there was a mosque on the plot, so it was not possible to be owned as private property.

However, earlier this week, the GHMC allegedly went ahead with the demolition without informing the Wakf Board.

“We also have a survey report from two or three years ago stating that the land belongs to us. Our contention is that the GHMC should not have gone ahead with the demolition without informing the board. We have spoken to the GHMC and said that no further work should take place. Our position remains the same,” Shahnawaz says.

Sources told TNM that a recommendations of a joint inspection survey to establish the ownership of the plot was also allegedly ignored by the GHMC. Officials in the Wakf Board are also irked that the GHMC did not even consider approaching the court over the land dispute, even though the Board had staked claim to it.

Shifting blame?

Meanwhile, all parties involved in the incident seem to be busy shifting blame.

Speaking to TNM, AIMIM MLA Pasha Qadri said, “There is blame on part of Wakf Board officials because I have come to learn that the land parcel exchanged hands in 1997. The officials of that time are responsible for allegedly ‘selling’ the land. It is negligence. We had written letters at that time as well, but they had ignored our requests. The plot has been contentious since then.”

However, Amjedullah Khan of the MBT says that the blame must fall on the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government along with the AIMIM, which is considered friendly to the ruling dispensation.

“There is a legal cell and a department that deals with land acquisition in the GHMC before the municipal body goes ahead with disbursing compensation,” he explains.

“Any amount above Rs 20 lakh as compensation can’t be directly approved by the GHMC Commissioner, it has to go to a standing committee with all relevant documents pertaining to the case. The TRS and AIMIM have their corporators in this committee. So how can those in power claim ignorance?” he asks.

Amjed also finds fault with the GHMC Commissioner for being ‘hell-bound’ on going ahead with the demolition, adding, “The same party that cleared the file has now started building the structure. Is it to fool the public or create communal tension? What are their intentions? Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi who tweets on everything in the country is totally silent on this. His silence shows that he was informed in advance by the TRS government.”

The AIMIM, on the other hand, insists that the mosque would be rebuilt.

“The masjid will be built, there is no doubt about it. We are just waiting for permission,” Qadri insists.

Meanwhile, the police said that they had registered two cases related to the violence on Sunday but no arrests have been made so far. A few people have been detained for questioning. 

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