Shopian: Amid a court case in which the former management is accused of irregularities and financial embezzlement, the maintenance and even cleanliness of Jamia Masjid Shopian has taken a back seat. Residents of the town, saddened by the plight of this historical mosque, are seeking its renovation, along with demanding action against people involved in “embezzlement” and “land grab”.
For the past ten years the mosque has become a centre of mistrust, while the court has handed over its affairs to the civil administration.
Muhammad Shafi Tak, a resident of the town, said the mosque is “turning into a ruin”.
“It has developed cracks; the tin roof has decayed, letting the rainwater seep inside. If immediate steps are not taken, the day is not far when this mosque will collapse,” Tak said.
Another resident, Khursheed Ahmad, said the electricity wiring of the mosque has decayed. “We have apprehensions of short circuits, as the electricity wires have decayed and no one is taking care of it. We want this mosque to be preserved; the warring parties can do whatever they want to do in the court,” Khursheed said.
Tanveer Ahmad Lone, a resident of Pinjora village, lamented the pathetic condition of the mosque despite the “huge monetary donations” it receives and the commercial assets (some 50 shops and business establishments) it owns. He alleged that the former Auqaf committee had given shops around the mosque on rent to their kin and friends. Residents of nearby areas complain of broken window panes, electricity lamps and scattered pigeon litter.
“Our mosque is crying, but no one is listening,” Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, a local, said.
Others question the irregularities committed under the watch of the caretakers. “During the widening of the Mughal Road, only land from the Eidgah side was taken for the widening. The Auqaf Committee is responsible for that. Besides taking money for road widening, they also chopped 17 walnut trees in the Eidgah, which is also a property of the Jamia Masjid,” another resident said.
He added that a committee should be formed by the government to run the affairs of the mosque.
Nazir Ahmad Khan, the president of the mosque committee from 1999 to 2014, said that the case in the district court was filed by Molvi Abdul Hameed, who led the prayers in the mosque, accusing Nazir and other members of the Auqaf Committee of fraud and embezzlement of funds. “They also told the court that I was using the mosque money for my personal purposes. Later, the mosque’s bank account was seized by the police on orders of the court,” Nazir said.
“I have submitted all my records and funds with the court and their verdict is yet to come. As I gave all the records before the authorities, the same should be taken from the committees who were running the mosque affairs before me,” he said.
Molvi Rizwan, son of Molvi Abdul Hameed, now leads the prayers at the mosque on behalf of his father. He maintained that Nazir used the bank account of the mosque for personal purposes, besides indulging in timber fraud.
“He (Nazir Khan) was caught by court holding mosque funds in his personal account. He also sold the mosque’s waqf land with the help of MLA Shopian Muhammad Yousuf Bhat, which was later taken back after the intervention of financial commissioner Kashmir after various hardships,” Rizwan said.
“The renovation of the mosque was started in 2005 and ended in 2009 and Nazir’s party claim that they have taken the timber from the forest department but not a single piece of timber was released by the department in that period. Where did that timber come from and where went the timber that was supplied by the department after 2010?” Rizwan said.
In response to an RTI, the forest department had disclosed that no timber was supplied to the mosque during 1999-2009 but 470 Cfts of timber were provided during 2010 to 2014.
Rizwan claimed that former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed told him and others that he found MLA Shopian, Muhammad Yousuf Bhat, guilty of selling the mosque’s waqf land, and assured to solve the case on priority.
Rizwan alleged that MLA Bhat was using political pressure to “hide his crimes”. Bhat, however, told Kashmir Reader that Rizwan was misusing his position and denied the allegations levelled against him. “The case is in court. If they find me guilty they have every right to punish me, or anyone else who is involved in selling of Wakf land. I will sue him (Rizwan) in court for making these allegations against me,” he said. The Jamia Masjid at Shopian was built in the 1930s and ’40s on the ruins of an earlier mosque built by the valley’s great Sufi saint Baba Dawood Khaqi (RA). It is believed that camels were used to ferry stones and boulders from Rambiara for the construction.
Asistant Commissioner Revenue (ACR) Shopian, Majid Jahangir, told Kashmir Reader that he has asked the Tehsildar and Naib Tehsildar Shopian to give him a detailed report on the mosque.