A few residents of Bengaluru’s Kaval Bairasandra on Wednesday woke up to the sight of the Mysore Lancer Masjid being locked down by personnel of the Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC). Residents claim the mosque is more than 100 years old.
At around 9.30am, a few of the PRTC personnel entered the homes of the mosque’s Imam and his attendant and locked down their homes.
“On Saturday (August 28), the PRTC had issued a notice to the mosque and the Imam and his attendant who live in homes right next to the mosque, stating that the land was defence property and hence they had to vacate. We had filed a writ petition with the Karnataka High Court on Monday asking for a stay and had asked the PRTC to wait until the court either granted or rejected the plea,” said Aslam, a member of the Lancer Masjid Committee.
The masjid’s committee members alleged that the PRTC personnel did not wait for the court order and locked down the premises with the attendant’s wife inside the home.
“They diverted people’s attention by blocking the path to the masjid by dumping mud. In the meantime, a few PRTC men entered the area where the Imam’s home is located and locked it down. They moved on to the attendant’s home and his wife was in there. They did not listen to her and locked down the home while she was inside the house. They later locked down the mosque as well,” the committee member added.
The committee members alleged that by the time the PRTC men had locked the mosque, about 200 people were already inside it.
“We did not budge and sat down in silent protest. The PRTC subordinates kept telling their senior to pass the order and they would ensure that the place is shut down. The subordinates were willing to go to any extent to shut down the mosque. But the senior officials, who knew that the situation would escalate, told them to stand down,” Aslam added.
At 11.30am, the mosque’s committee had obtained the stay order against the PRTC’s order issued on Saturday.
“There were over 2,000 people who had gathered. The PRTC had barricaded the area near the mosque’s wall and the road to the mosque was also blocked. The committee members were near the mosque while most of the common people were on the other side of the barricade. We were not able to communicate with them. Videos began circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook. People started spreading news that the mosque was demolished. This misinformation was because we were not able to communicate with the people on the other side,” Aslam added.
At 1pm, Aslam requested the PRTC personnel to allow the people to perform namaaz. The PRTC had agreed to the request. However, with no communication between the committee members and the people on the other side of the barricade, the people, assuming that the PRTC had refused to allow them to pray, pushed the PRTC personnel. That’s when the lathi charge began.
Aslam and the committee members then spoke to the people and calmed down the crowd. The people then performed namaaz and the PRTC pulled back as the stay order was passed.
In a press release, the Army maintained that the mosque was built on the defense land during the pre-independence period and a notice was served when they realised people were illegally occupying the land.
The 113-year-old mosque is located on 4.5 acres of land owned by the Waqf Board. The issue began in 1998, when the PRTC claimed ownership of the land and demanded that the people vacate the mosque. The Imam of the mosque, his helper, and a few other families live in eight houses next to the mosque. Over the years, many families have left the place due to the dispute and only three families, including the Imam live there.
Aslam filed a case with the Waqf Tribunal against the PRTC’s attempts to take over the land. Although the mosque committee produced ownership documents, the PRTC did not budge. In 2011, the Waqf Board, in an order said that status quo must prevail. The case is still pending at the Waqf Tribunal.
The PRTC then moved the Karnataka HC, asking the case to be considered in a civilian court and not at the Waqf tribunal.
“They have closed the Mysore Lancers Road and also the Desuraj Urs Road. The current road, which weaves through Kaval Bairasandra was constructed in March 2003. A few days after the mud road was carved out, the PRTC shut it down and told us to enter from the main entrance of the Mysore Lancer’s property. They allowed us to use the road for three days and then shut it down. We had protested then as well. This issue has been going on for 18 years now and we will not budge,” Aslam added.
MLAs Zameer Ahmed Khan and Akhanda Srinivas Murthy assured the people that talks would be held with the PRTC, after which the crowd dispersed.