Srinagar: The army has not allowed the re-construction of a pre-Partition-era mosque inside the Badami Bagh garrison, triggering a wave of resentment among the local people who either work or run businesses there.
The mosque, built during the reign of dogra Maharaja Hari Singh, was being reconstructed in Saddar Bazar area of the cantonment, which is the headquarters of the army’s 15 Corps.
The angry locals said the mosque was made out of bounds by one Colonel Malhotra on last Thursday and no one was being allowed to go near it. The worshippers were not allowed to offer Friday prayers last week.
“We pooled funds to carry out the construction work. One storey of the mosque was completed and only the slab was to be laid. However, an officer came last Thursday and ordered that no construction work should be allowed,” said a traders, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal.
After the officer’s order, he said, the army deployed Military Police to ensure that no one passes walks through the restricted area. He said that the sign board erected outside the Masjid was also removed.
“The army raised another sign board at the entrance that reads ‘out of bounds’. In Ramadan alone about 200-250 worshippers including soldiers would offer prayers at the mosque,” he said.
He said Muslim soldiers would pool money and arrange Iftar at the mosque in Ramadan.
“Why didn’t army object when we started construction? Why did they make excuses when the work was nearing completion?” the trader added.
The traders said that the former GoC 15 Corps Lt General Gurmeet Singh also intervened into the issue before his tenure ended in June last year. However, construction was delayed because of the floods last year.
Besides the Sadder Bazar mosque, the cantonment houses another mosque and the shrine of Peer Mohammad Yousuf Shah near the 2 FOD.
However, for as many as 30 Kashmiri traders and hundreds of employees and soldiers, the Sadder Bazar Masjid is the most convenient due to its proximity to the market.
An employee in the cantonment said that a few officers with a “communal mindset” were creating hurdles in the reconstruction of the mosque.
“It is surprising that army is objecting to the construction when in fact the board itself laid the foundation and raised plinth in 2010,” he said.
Srinagar based army spokesman Lt Colonel NN Joshi told Kashmir Reader that the cantonment board has objected to the construction because no permission has been obtained from them.
“This is a construction without permission. Procedure has to be followed before carrying out construction activities,” Joshi said, adding “Every land has its rule. There are laws that need to be adhered to.”