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DDA faces flak for demolishing historic Akhundji Mosque in Delhi's Mehrauli

Akhundji Mosque Demolition: While the DDA claims the mosjid was an encroachment in a reserved forest area, historians dispute this, arguing that the mosque predates the forest's reservation in 1994

DDA faces flak for demolishing historic Akhundji Mosque in Delhi's Mehrauli
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First Published Feb 5, 2024, 1:49 PM IST

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) finds itself embroiled in controversy following the demolition of the historic Akhundji Mosque in Mehrauli, Delhi. The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the DDA in response to a petition filed by the Waqf Board Management Committee, questioning the basis for the mosque's demolition. While the DDA claims it was an encroachment in a reserved forest area, historians argue that the mosque predates the notification of the area as a reserved forest in 1994.

Historical Ambiguity on Akhundji Mosque

The exact age of the Akhundji Mosque remains uncertain, with no definitive date of construction. However, historical accounts provide some insight. A publication by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1922 mentions that the mosque underwent repairs in 1270 AH (1853-4 AD) and stood to the west of an older Idgah constructed in 1398 AD during Taimur's invasion of India.

The 'Catalogue of Muhammadan and Hindu Monuments, Volume III' by Maulvi Zafar Hasan notes that the Akhundji Mosque, located approximately 100 yards west of the Idgah, featured an arched roof supported by double pillars of brown local stone. Sohail Hashmi, an author, asserts that the mosque existed before the establishment of Sanjay Van Van Bhoomi in 1994, debunking the encroachment claim.

Conflicting Claims and Notable Inscription

Amid conflicting narratives, historian Rana Safvi suggests that the inscription mentioning repairs in 1270 AH/1853-54 might be attributed to Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, as Zafar's takhallus is used.

Renowned historian William Dalrymple shared photos of the Akhundji Mosque before its demolition, highlighting an inscription that referred to repairs by Bahadur Shah Zafar. Dalrymple contends that while part of the structure may be a modern reconstruction, it likely sits atop the ruins of a Sultanate-era mosque, dargah, or khanqah.

The controversy surrounding the demolition has sparked outrage on social media. Dalrymple's posts have drawn attention to the historical significance of the Akhundji Mosque and the need for preservation, even if modern constructions were considered unauthorized encroachments.

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