Muslims claim site for proposed Uttar Pradesh varsity

July 29th, 2008 - 12:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Darshan Desai
Lucknow, July 29 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Maywati’s attempts to build a university here for the disabled has run into rough weather with Shia Muslims claiming the land demarcated for the project belongs to a historical mosque. According to managers of the Shahadara Mosque, about 19 of the 74 acres acquired by the government for building the university in the name of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) national general secretary Satish Mishra’s mother Shakuntala Mishra belongs to the shrine.

Located on Mohan Road on the outskirts of Lucknow, the picturesque Shahadara Mosque was built between 1820 and 1827 by Mallika Kishwar Jahan, wife of the first nawab of Awadh, Ghaziuddin Haider Shah.

Baqar Mehndi, the mutawalli (caretaker) of the mosque for the last 40 years, says the land belongs to Shia Muslims and is registered under the Uttar Pradesh Muslim Waqf Act.

“If the land is not returned to the Muslims, we will launch a countrywide agitation led by clerics and Muslim organizations against the BSP government,” Mehndi told IANS.

Shia Muslim leaders have organised themselves under the Shahadara Masjid Bachao Sangharsh Samiti to fight for the cause.

On its part, the government has constituted a three-member committee headed by Additional District Magistrate R.K. Pandey to look into the claims of the mosque authorities.

“The committee has no meaning since all records are available to clearly show the land belongs to the mosque,” said Mehndi.

The district administration had assured Muslims in the area that the disputed portion of the plot would not be used till the committee submits its report. However, construction work has already begun on the site.

Several bulldozers have been pressed into service to uproot trees and level the land under police vigil. Workers are raising a boundary wall around the plot.

Mayawati had announced the setting up of the university on Feb 3 this year by ordering the transfer of 74 acres to the Shakuntala Mishra Sewa Sansthan free of cost.

The chief minister also gifted a corpus of Rs.5.1 million to the trust. Later, in the wake of controversy over the government giving away free land to allegedly oblige Mishra, Mayawati changed her decision June 7 and said the government would itself implement the project.

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