By Hasan Akram
New Delhi: Muslims at Shafiabad Loti village in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district are in distress as the state authorities have issued orders to acquire the southern part of an almost 500-year-old graveyard in their village for construction of Ganga Expressway.
In January this year, the district administration had made it clear that a part of the graveyard would be acquired for the construction of the expressway. They had published a public notice stating the same in Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran, on 17 January.
Locals said the officials of National Highways Authority of India (NGAI) visited the graveyard several months ago and ”illegally” earmarked its southern portion (almost 65 meters inside) for the construction of the expressway.
They are opposing the move as they believe their ancestors are buried beneath the land.
”It will be painful to see the bones of our ancestors being bulldozed,” said Liyaqat Ali, a local resident while speaking to this correspondent.
Another resident, Naushad Chaudhary, added that the said graveyard is a waqt property. It is registered with the UP Sunni Waqf Board at Serial no. 650.
Thus, the acquisition of the land would be illegal as any waqf property cannot be acquired by the government as per Section 51 of Waqf Act 1995.
Ali and Chaudhary along with other villagers have been struggling for the past several months to stop the acquisition. They have sent letters to Additional Chief Secretary to Government of Uttar Pradesh, Awanish Awasthi and several local officials.
The villagers have had several meetings with local magistrate, K Balaji. He has verbally assured them that the graveyard would not be damaged but not issued any official order indicating the same.