Gujarat HC refuses status quo on alleged conversion of dargah, issues notices
The Gujarat high court on Friday issued notices to the state government, Ahmedabad district collector and other respondents in connection with a petition filed by a Muslim organisation against the alleged conversion of 600-year-old Pir Imam Shah Bawa Dargah on the outskirts of Ahmedabad to Hindu religious places.
The court did not accept the petitioner’s plea for ordering a status quo that would halt the ongoing construction activity in the compound area of the mosque.
The petition is filed by Sunni Awami Forum through its trustee Usman Haji Ahmed Qureshi, who has invoked the Places of Worship Act, 1991. It is the same Act which has been invoked in cases pertaining to the Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi, the Shahi Idgah Masjid in Mathura and the Quwat-e-Islam Masjid in Delhi.
Senior counsel Mihir Joshi, who appeared for Qureshi, submitted that the shrine has been undergoing rapid changes and unless a status quo is ordered, the nature of the place of worship would change.
The court has given time till August 8 for respondents to file their replies. Joshi sought a shorter duration as a lot of construction activity could be carried out by then.
The petitioner has also made Imamshah Bawa Roza Trust, Ahmedabad deputy collector, mamlatdar, district superintendent of police and police inspector of Aslali police station as respondents in the case.
“The Dargah is now converted into a temple with idol being installed. It is to be noted in the dargah premises there is no such place for idols,” said the petition. Thus, the soul and essence of the dargah or Trust property has been replaced with a temple or in other words the dragah is converted into temple, it alleged adding that it was contrary to the scheme of the Trust and provisions of the Places of Worship Act.
Manisha Lavkumar Shah, the government pleader in the case, said that they have received the notice and have time till August 8 to file their response. She declined to comment on the matter. Senior counsel Joshi declined to speak on the matter.
The history of the Pirana shrine has in the past been seen as an example of communal harmony, with a large number of Imamshah Bawa devotees being Hindus, who identified themselves as ‘Satpanthi’.
The Sathpanthi are elected from the categories of “Sathpanth” and therefore, being majority in the committee, they are managing the Imamshah Bawa Roza Trust with sole motive to deprive Saiyed and other Muslims from performing religious rites and rituals and portraying Pir Imamshah Bawa as the Hindu saint, the petition alleged.
The Trust started construction of a temple in the compound of the dargah adjacent to the Roza of Pir Imamshah Bawa on May 10, 2022. The petitioner along with Saiyed Trustees of Trust and Imamshahi Sadat Committee made representations to the Ahmedabad district collector and police superintendent requesting to stop illegal construction of the temple but no steps were taken in this direction, it alleged.
The Muslim trustees and devotees have lately been alleging imposition of the Hindu faith. They alleged that idols of Dashavatar were installed outside the shrine earlier this year and now a temple is being constructed in the area. They demanded videography of the complex to assess the situation and the appointment of a commission to draw up a Panchnama to get the current situation on record.
On January 30, 2022 about 200 labourers along with huge police force came to the Trust and started construction of a wall in the compound, dividing the dargah,qabrastan and masjid.
The petition also claimed that on April 10, Ram Navami was organised on the dargah premises, the videos of which were circulated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, appealing the Hindus to attend in large numbers as a show of strength.