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New mosque coming up over Mughal-era ruins


Even as a large chunk of land — where archaeological remains of a Mughal-era structure were found — at a Delhi Metro's construction site was transferred back to the civic body, construction of a new mosque continued in full swing at the site near Jama Masjid on Wednesday.


Incidentally, the land has all along been part of Jama Masjid Redevelopment Plan (JMRP), under the civic body. But the plan remained pending for almost a decade. A day after the government decided to form an expert committee to study the archaeological remains of what is believed to be 1650-built Akbarabadi mosque, the place was frequented by hundreds of men and women with children in tow and wore the look of a tourist place.


Scores of volunteers joined hands for carrying out construction of a new mosque. A long brick wall along with a decorated mihrab (west-facing niche in the wall for offering prayers) was in place. Construction material was strewn all over the place and a drilling machine dug a bore well on one side.


The remains were first discovered about three weeks ago after MLA Shoaib Iqbal deployed his men and machinery for digging at the site. Earlier on Monday, fearing a law and order problem, chief minister Sheila Dikshit at the request of Delhi police commissioner had asked Iqbal not to go ahead either with prayers or construction at the site.


However, on Wednesday, Dikshit told HT, "The land belongs to the MCD. We have told them, it is your land, you are supposed to protect it." Despite repeated attempts to reach him on phone, Iqbal was unavailable for comments.


The JMRP — conceived by the then unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi — has been in the works for years. Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) had suggested excavation at the place when it had approved the plan. But the unified MCD never bothered to do it. Explained Subhash Arya, leader of the undivided house and now the leader of the south corporation: "No area was clearly earmarked as to what is where in the plan. Till the time we are not sure, how could we have carried out excavations?" The Delhi Metro, which had been working on the site on its phase 3, has already transferred the land to the civic body.


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