Delhi has sufficient shrines, imperative to save forests: HC | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Delhi has sufficient shrines, imperative to save forests: HC

Feb 09, 2024 02:34 PM IST

The Delhi high court rejected a plea to protect two religious structures in Sanjay Van, stating that Delhi already has enough temples and dargahs. The court emphasized the need to restore the forest and remove unauthorized constructions on public land for the betterment of society and to combat pollution. The plea was made by a promoter of Delhi's history who expressed concerns about the demolition of the structures. The court disposed of the plea, stating that the structures declared as a part of national heritage or protected by a statutory authority will not be demolished.

The Delhi high court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking protection against demolition of two religious structures in Sanjay Van, saying that the Capital “already had sufficient dargahs and temples” and it was now imperative to restore the forest.

The court was of the view that the removal of unauthorised constructions, including unprotected religious structures, from the forest land is for the betterment of the society at large. (Representational image)
The court was of the view that the removal of unauthorised constructions, including unprotected religious structures, from the forest land is for the betterment of the society at large. (Representational image)

The two structures in question are the Ashiq Allah dargah, and the chillagah of Baba Farid. The petitioner, Himanshu Damle, a promoter of Delhi’s history, contended that there was apprehension regarding the demolition of the structures as police had barricaded the area, restricted its access, and removed the caretakers of the dargah.

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The plea said that the “complex structure could be destroyed overnight by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which demolished adjacent structures including the Akhunji Masjid and the Haji Rozbih Dargah, as well as certain 12th-century graves without notice”.

However, the court was of the view that the removal of unauthorised constructions, including unprotected religious structures, from the forest land is for the betterment of the society at large.

“We cannot even breathe in Delhi... Let the forest be restored. These (Sanjay Van) are green lungs, people are dying in the city due to pollution. This is our last bastion. Enough peers, dargah and temples are there in the city,” a bench led by acting chief justice Manmohan said to advocate Satyajit Sarna, who appeared for Damle.

The court added that green areas are the lungs of the city and efforts have to be made by all statutory authorities to ensure that no illegal and unauthorised construction is carried out on public land.

The DDA lawyer submitted that the green area in Sanjay Van was completely encroached upon and the civic authority had also demolished various structures, including four temples.

During the hearing, the bench, also comprising justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, said that health needs to be a priority. “We have such an unhealthy population today. Health is the priority. Green environment is the priority otherwise you won’t be able to exist,” the court said.

Disposing of the plea, the bench said that DDA and the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs have issued statements saying they would not demolish structures declared as a part of national heritage or ones that are deemed to be protected by a statutory authority.

To be sure, the 13th-century dargah is an unprotected monument and finds a mention in the “List of Muhammadan and Hindu Monuments, Volume III Mahrauli Zila” published in 1922 by Maulvi Zafar Hasan, assistant superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

As per the listing, the chillagah came up in the early part of the 13th century AD, and that “Baba Shaikh Fariduddin Shakar Ganj was the chief disciple of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki.” About the chillagah, Maulvi Hasan wrote, “It has been invariably a practice with the Muhammadan saints that they indulge in prayer and meditation at a secluded and lonely place which is termed chillagah... (they) are very common in India and are attributed to various saints and held sacred by the general public.”

In the 20th century ASI document, the Ashiq Allah dargah is listed as the tomb of Shaikh Shihabuddin, which came up in 1317 AD. “Ashiq is known to have been a saint...,” wrote Maulvi Hasan, who also mentioned the inscription, which he described as modern, on a stone tablet built into a brick masonry pillar at the head of the grave: “Shaikh Shihabuddin Ashiq, may God have mercy upon him. The year 717.”

According to the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities, the site is a “living monument”, meaning it continues to be used for religious purposes.

The court, in a related development earlier this week, had directed DDA to maintain the status quo in the Mehrauli area on which the 600-year-old Akhunji Masjid was demolished, till February 12. A bench of justice Sachin Datta, however, clarified that its order would not preclude the civic authority from acting against other illegal properties in the area.

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