New Delhi: The Archaeological Survey of India has banned Muslims from offering namaz at the mosque located at the premises of the Taj Mahal in Agra on all days except Fridays, leading New Delhi based English daily reported on Monday. On Sunday, the ASI reportedly locked the tank where devotees clean themselves before offering prayers.
According to the report, even the imam and staff of the mosque have been asked to turn up only on Fridays.
ASI officials have reportedly claimed that they are implementing the Supreme Court’s July order where the court had ruled that only local residents would be allowed to offer namaz on Fridays at the mosque located within the complex.
The court had reasoned that the monument is one of the seven wonders of the world, and should be preserved. “Why for such prayers they should go to the Taj Mahal?” asked the bench of Justices A. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. “There are other mosques also. They can offer their prayers there.”
Superintending archaeologist, ASO (Agra circle) Vasant Swarankar said that the new rule is “as per the order of the apex court”.
On Fridays, the Taj Mahal is closed to the general public. Agra residents are allowed to offer namaz at the mosque between noon and 2 pm on Fridays after showing identity proof.
In January, citing security reasons, the Agra additional district magistrate had barred non-residents of Agra from offering prayers at the mosque. Calling it illegal and arbitrary, Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, the president of Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee, had challenged this order in the Supreme Court.
Zaidi said the namaz was being offered at the mosque for decades. He blamed the state and central governments for the move. “I will be meeting ASI officials on Monday and will raise this issue. The move by ASI to lock up Wazu Khana is reflection of anti-Muslim mindset of the governments,” Zaidi said.
The ASI, however, denied the allegations, saying the move was as per the directions of the Supreme Court. “This was done as per the orders of the Supreme Court. Namaz can only be offered on Fridays and that too by residents of Agra only,” Vasant Swarankar, ASI superintending archaeologist for Agra circle, said.