Is Durga Nagpal really innocent?

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By Zafarul-Islam Khan,

IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal
IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal

New Delhi: The 24×7 media has once again succeeded in turning a clear case of high-handed, arrogant, if not communal, behaviour of a bureaucrat to an act of highest national service. It was a clear case of rash high-handedness by an officer intoxicated by the powers the “steel frame” still enjoys six decades after the departure of the British raj, which made her demolish a “place of worship” (read mosque – can she touch any other community’s place of worship?). The blackmailer-paid-news-media donning the patriotic garb, quickly turned it into an act of mafia revenge because the said officer was fighting against sand mafia in her area. Soon a misinformation was fed quoting the district magistrate that the villagers, being told that the mosque was illegal, themselves demolished the wall (!). It is repeatedly being said that the mosque was being built without permission but it has not been made clear since when permission is needed to build something in a village? The “law” to make a prior permission from the local administration obligatory before building a place of worship [which in practice was going to be applicable to mosques alone] that the BJP government in UP tried to sneak in, in 2000, never got passed.

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The alert-as-ever 24×7 media never bothered to go and talk to the villagers whose mosque was demolished. This is a basic duty of media and was not difficult either as the village Kadalpur is situated in Noida, on U.P.-Haryana borders, within a stone’s throw from Delhi.

It is a Muslim-dominated village with a population of 5000 out of which 80 percent are Muslims. Previously, it had only one mosque at one corner of the village. Residents on the other end of the village had to walk a distance of two kms to reach the mosque. In view of the need due to growing population, a gram Sabha vacant land was chosen according to a decision made way back in 1982. Villagers came forward to donate to first fill and prepare the land at a cost of one lakh rupees, then they built walls around the plot and placed a tarpaulin, water tank, built a place for ablutions and placed mats for offering prayers.

Urdu daily Inquilab (Delhi, 2 August) quotes villager Muhammad Shamshad, an eyewitness of the demolition on 27 July, as saying,

“We had taken our sehri (pre-dawn food taken at the fast) and offered fajr (dawn) prayers and were preparing to go to the fields, when we were surprised to see a force from the area police station arriving in the village at around 9-10 in the morning. They sat next to the mosque. Soon a force of PAC came, followed by an ambulance vehicle and a JCB machine. Then, at around 12 pm, SDM Durga Nagpal arrived amid wailing sirens. Her vehicle halted with a screech at the mosque causing such a frightening sound that the villages got scared and ran to their homes for safety.  We soon understood the reason why this force had come. Now village pradhan Sher Mohammad and other dignitaries of the village mustered courage to approach the SDM and talk to her.

“When we wnt to talk to the SDM, at first she spoke politely but soon she lost her temper warning us that if anyone came forward, I will send ten policemen behind him.”

Pradhan Sher Mohammad, who had appealed to the SDM not demolish the mosque, told Inquilab: “I spent some fifteen minutes reasoning with her and beseeching with her not to demolish the mosque in

Ramzan. I told her: we have built the mosque with great effort. I told her: after Ramzan we will get the official papers ready. But she refused to listen and ordered the demolition of the mosque. The policemen first smashed the tarpaulin, then threw away the prayer mats, then they broke the water tank which we had bought after collecting  donations for twenty days.”

The pradhan added, “we were in a bind as to what should we do while the police were destroying the mosque: should we resist or not? But seeing the temper of the SDM and her threat to turn it into a Bhatta Parsol, we kept quiet. The demolition activity continued till 4 pm, after which the SDM, tahsildar and the police force withdrew leaving behind a police team.”

Inquilab further reports, quoting locals, that a state of disquiet prevailed over the village and the news spread to the neighbouring villages. People from 50 neighbouring  villages assembled. The situation was going to turn from bad to worse but the saner elements prevailed and pressed for a peaceful solution. Muhammad Zakir, a villager, said that zuhr (noon) and ‘asr (after-noon) prayers were not offered on that day but we offered the maghrib (evening) prayer in the same mosque. He said Nagpal is a communal person who destroyed a place of worship in which even Hindus had contributed. He said the former pradhan Chandra Pal had paid 11,000 rupees while Mahindra Jat had paid 5000 rupees for the mosque.

Inquilab quoted 71-year old villager, Muhammad Shakir, as saying, “We are pained at the illegal way our place of worship has been destroyed but we are more pained because no one listens to us, the victims.” He said, “every one is listening to the IAS officer, who will listen to us?”

Another Urdu daily, Qaumi Salamti on 3 August quoted Zakir Husain, pramukh of the neighbouring village of Anwargarh, “Clean chit has been given to the SDM though the DM [district magistrate] has not bothered to visit the place not has he spoken to any panchayat member. He has sent a wrong report. Why should the villagers demolish their own mosque?” Zakir Husain further said the officer [Durga Nagpal] herself had come to destroy the mosque walls endangering communal peace.

Qaumi Salamati quotes the pradhan of Kadalpur as saying that they had  collected donations for a whole year before they were able to build the mosque on an uninhabited piece of land for which no permission was sought from the administration.

Daily Sahafat on 3 August published a similar report adding that “once the wall was demolished, people were ready to go to any length but saner elements opposed violence.”

Courtesy The Milli Gazette. The author is Editor of the English fortnightly

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