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Delhi HC allows re-opening Nizamuddin Markaz for Shab-E-Baraat

The High Court bench observed that the management will ensure proper social distancing guidelines and does not deserve exhaustive conditions for re-opening

Sabrangindia 17 Mar 2022

markaz

Nizamuddin Markaz will be open for Shab-E-Baraat on March 18, 2022 and March 19, 2022 for religious prayers, said the Delhi High Court on March 16, following a plea from the City Waqf Board. This is the same mosque that suffered much flak for the alleged Tablighi Jamaat fiasco and remained closed for nearly two years.

Shab-E-Baraat is a major event in the Islamic calendar, and falls on the fifteenth night of the Sha’ban. People commemorate their deceased ancestors and collectively worship and ask for forgiveness of their wrongdoings. In many regions, it is also a night when individuals pray for the forgiveness of their ancestors. The night is believed to reward devotees with good fortune for the whole year and cleanse people’s sins.

To ensure the observance of this night in 2022, petitioner’s legal representative Sanjoy Ghose argued for the opening of the mosque. He submitted a letter bearing signatures of Hazrat Nizamuddin Station House Officer from March 15 that granted permission for a restricted reopening of the Masjid inside the Markaz to offer prayers.

Among other conditions, this letter said that ground and three floors will be opened for less than a hundred devotees per floor, reasoning that “due to congested place/area, number of devotees should be limited for the emergency conditions.”

However, Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri removed this restriction, stating that the management of the mosque will ensure that Covid-19 protocols and social distancing will be followed.

“The management of the petitioner will ensure that while allowing the devotees into the premises of the Markaz building to offer prayers in the Masjid, COVID-19 norms and protocols, as prescribed by DDMA from time to time, including wearing of face masks, are strictly adhered to. To this end, it is also agreed that the Management will provide for hand sanitizers at the entry gates, as well as volunteers who will screen the devotees with the help of hand-held thermal scanners,” said the court order.

The floors will be reopened at 12 PM, a day before Shab-E-Baraat and will be closed on the day after ‘Shab E Baraat’ at 4 PM.

Along with the restriction on the number of footfalls, the Court modified many conditions in the letter as well. For example, one condition demanded that foreign citizens and OCI card holders will not enter the Markaz premises, unless the person provides identity details such as a passport/OCI card and another photo identity card to the SHO. To this, the Court said that the Management can display a board at the entry gates of the Masjid, specifying the condition.

Still other contentious restrictions stated that “No Tablighi activities, in any manner whatsoever, will be permitted during the reopening period.” Ghose argued against such conditions and the Court changed the expressions ‘No Tablighi activities, in any manner whatsoever’ to be read as “no activity other than offering of Namaz and religious prayers”.

As for the demand for a separate register on the main entry gate for maintaining record of the visitors, the High Court dismissed it entirely. Similarly, it observed that Masjid already has CCTV cameras and does not require new CCTV cameras. Accordingly, the footage will be preserved but provided only when required.

Lastly, the petitioner objected to the lodging of the devotees not provided inside the premises. The court said that the application will be restricted only to lodging of the devotees in the “hostel” in the Markaz premises.

The admission of people at the discretion of the management is a big win for the mosque. In April 2021, the same Court allowed only upto 50 persons to offer namaz five times a day. This despite Justice Mukta Gupta’s own admission that other religious places were open around the time. At the time, the Court had relied upon a June 2020 notification of the DDMA that did not impose restrictions on religious places. However, the police had in its inspection report stated that only 20 people could be accommodated inside the mosque, although the management argued otherwise.

Markaz during Covid-19

The continued struggle for the Nizamuddin Markaz began in March 2020, when the international headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat was accused of flouting Covid-lockdown guidelines. Media channels and even the Union Ministry of Home Affairs alleged that the meeting resulted in a surge of Covid-cases.

Although the management tried to explain in a press release that the mosque had its hand forced in trying to accommodate stranded visitors, the statement was disregarded. News media and experts did not heed the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced a nationwide lockdown in the country immediately after a Janata curfew, effectively trapping commuting/travelling people in different parts of India.

Instead, as many as 233 Tablighi Jamaat members were arrested under the Epidemics Act by September 2020, and 2,361 people were evacuated from the organisation’s headquarters since March 29, 2020. People who managed to return to their hometowns were attacked. The Delhi administration kept a separate count of Tablighi Jamaat folk who were Covid-positive. The Karnataka High Court even tried to ban foreign nationals from entering India for the next 10 years – a ruling that was thankfully quashed by the Supreme Court.

In April 2020, the apex court received a bizarre plea in the form of a letter, asking the Chief Justice of India to ban Tablighi Jamaat and its activities. It went on to call the historic Markaz “an illegal structure” and sought demolition of the building. This condemnation is in stark response to the Kumbh Mela coverage in April 2021 when Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said in a Hindustan Times interview, “Don’t compare Kumbh Mela to Markaz event.”

It was after this event, coupled with West Bengal election campaigning, that Covid-cases in India exploded. Yet, the hate continued with the Delhi High Court hearing cases in August 2021 against Indian nationals for offering shelter to foreign attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat.

CJP calls out prejudice against Markaz

While chaos and concern regarding the coronavirus pandemic reigned supreme, CJP moved the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) for action against India Today for running a sting operation on madrasas and then linking it to the tablighi Jamaat. The ‘Madrasa Hotpots: India Today Investigation’ show on April 10, 2020 was based on a sting operation conducted in a madrasa housing minor children. In condemning the madrasas the show conveniently forgot to mention that the institutions served as hostels for poor, destitute and orphaned children during the pandemic.

Instead, the show compared it to the Tablighi Jamaat case and voiced concern about the spread of Covid-19, with children being crammed in rooms. According to CJP, the channel seemed “to have taken this stand in a bid to insinuate that Muslims are still defying social distancing, thus making them appear to be a greater enemy than the coronavirus itself.”

Then again on November 6, 2020 another channel News Nation aired a show on “Conversion Jihad” and claimed that a Memchand from Mewat was allegedly forcibly converted to Islam and threatened by the Tablighi Jamaat.

Again, CJP complained to the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) on December 1, 2020. It explained how anchor Deepak Chaurasia called one Maulana Syed ul Qadri and forced him to tender an apology on behalf of the entire Muslim community.

“He also insulted him on air and called him a Jhoot ki Factory (factory of lies)!” said the complaint, further citing how the host encouraged hate speech against Muslims. After hearings, the NBDSA ordered News Nation to take down all videos of its show.

The NBDSA concluded that the channel had only “made generalised submissions” and “failed to submit any specific reply to the grievances of the complainant.” It noted a lack of due diligence from News Nation as well as a disregard for the Code of Ethics and Guidelines.

With the amendments made by the Delhi High Court for the Nizamuddin Markaz in 2022, devotees are hopeful that life can return to normalcy and people can pray in the building.

Related:

Delhi HC allows 50 persons to offer namaz at Nizamuddin Markaz mosque

No gathering can be permitted at Nizamuddin Markaz: Centre tells Delhi HC

Don’t compare Kumbh Mela to Markaz event: Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat

Markaz Nizamuddin counters all allegations of contributing to spread of Covid-19

Delhi HC allows re-opening Nizamuddin Markaz for Shab-E-Baraat

The High Court bench observed that the management will ensure proper social distancing guidelines and does not deserve exhaustive conditions for re-opening

markaz

Nizamuddin Markaz will be open for Shab-E-Baraat on March 18, 2022 and March 19, 2022 for religious prayers, said the Delhi High Court on March 16, following a plea from the City Waqf Board. This is the same mosque that suffered much flak for the alleged Tablighi Jamaat fiasco and remained closed for nearly two years.

Shab-E-Baraat is a major event in the Islamic calendar, and falls on the fifteenth night of the Sha’ban. People commemorate their deceased ancestors and collectively worship and ask for forgiveness of their wrongdoings. In many regions, it is also a night when individuals pray for the forgiveness of their ancestors. The night is believed to reward devotees with good fortune for the whole year and cleanse people’s sins.

To ensure the observance of this night in 2022, petitioner’s legal representative Sanjoy Ghose argued for the opening of the mosque. He submitted a letter bearing signatures of Hazrat Nizamuddin Station House Officer from March 15 that granted permission for a restricted reopening of the Masjid inside the Markaz to offer prayers.

Among other conditions, this letter said that ground and three floors will be opened for less than a hundred devotees per floor, reasoning that “due to congested place/area, number of devotees should be limited for the emergency conditions.”

However, Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri removed this restriction, stating that the management of the mosque will ensure that Covid-19 protocols and social distancing will be followed.

“The management of the petitioner will ensure that while allowing the devotees into the premises of the Markaz building to offer prayers in the Masjid, COVID-19 norms and protocols, as prescribed by DDMA from time to time, including wearing of face masks, are strictly adhered to. To this end, it is also agreed that the Management will provide for hand sanitizers at the entry gates, as well as volunteers who will screen the devotees with the help of hand-held thermal scanners,” said the court order.

The floors will be reopened at 12 PM, a day before Shab-E-Baraat and will be closed on the day after ‘Shab E Baraat’ at 4 PM.

Along with the restriction on the number of footfalls, the Court modified many conditions in the letter as well. For example, one condition demanded that foreign citizens and OCI card holders will not enter the Markaz premises, unless the person provides identity details such as a passport/OCI card and another photo identity card to the SHO. To this, the Court said that the Management can display a board at the entry gates of the Masjid, specifying the condition.

Still other contentious restrictions stated that “No Tablighi activities, in any manner whatsoever, will be permitted during the reopening period.” Ghose argued against such conditions and the Court changed the expressions ‘No Tablighi activities, in any manner whatsoever’ to be read as “no activity other than offering of Namaz and religious prayers”.

As for the demand for a separate register on the main entry gate for maintaining record of the visitors, the High Court dismissed it entirely. Similarly, it observed that Masjid already has CCTV cameras and does not require new CCTV cameras. Accordingly, the footage will be preserved but provided only when required.

Lastly, the petitioner objected to the lodging of the devotees not provided inside the premises. The court said that the application will be restricted only to lodging of the devotees in the “hostel” in the Markaz premises.

The admission of people at the discretion of the management is a big win for the mosque. In April 2021, the same Court allowed only upto 50 persons to offer namaz five times a day. This despite Justice Mukta Gupta’s own admission that other religious places were open around the time. At the time, the Court had relied upon a June 2020 notification of the DDMA that did not impose restrictions on religious places. However, the police had in its inspection report stated that only 20 people could be accommodated inside the mosque, although the management argued otherwise.

Markaz during Covid-19

The continued struggle for the Nizamuddin Markaz began in March 2020, when the international headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat was accused of flouting Covid-lockdown guidelines. Media channels and even the Union Ministry of Home Affairs alleged that the meeting resulted in a surge of Covid-cases.

Although the management tried to explain in a press release that the mosque had its hand forced in trying to accommodate stranded visitors, the statement was disregarded. News media and experts did not heed the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced a nationwide lockdown in the country immediately after a Janata curfew, effectively trapping commuting/travelling people in different parts of India.

Instead, as many as 233 Tablighi Jamaat members were arrested under the Epidemics Act by September 2020, and 2,361 people were evacuated from the organisation’s headquarters since March 29, 2020. People who managed to return to their hometowns were attacked. The Delhi administration kept a separate count of Tablighi Jamaat folk who were Covid-positive. The Karnataka High Court even tried to ban foreign nationals from entering India for the next 10 years – a ruling that was thankfully quashed by the Supreme Court.

In April 2020, the apex court received a bizarre plea in the form of a letter, asking the Chief Justice of India to ban Tablighi Jamaat and its activities. It went on to call the historic Markaz “an illegal structure” and sought demolition of the building. This condemnation is in stark response to the Kumbh Mela coverage in April 2021 when Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said in a Hindustan Times interview, “Don’t compare Kumbh Mela to Markaz event.”

It was after this event, coupled with West Bengal election campaigning, that Covid-cases in India exploded. Yet, the hate continued with the Delhi High Court hearing cases in August 2021 against Indian nationals for offering shelter to foreign attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat.

CJP calls out prejudice against Markaz

While chaos and concern regarding the coronavirus pandemic reigned supreme, CJP moved the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) for action against India Today for running a sting operation on madrasas and then linking it to the tablighi Jamaat. The ‘Madrasa Hotpots: India Today Investigation’ show on April 10, 2020 was based on a sting operation conducted in a madrasa housing minor children. In condemning the madrasas the show conveniently forgot to mention that the institutions served as hostels for poor, destitute and orphaned children during the pandemic.

Instead, the show compared it to the Tablighi Jamaat case and voiced concern about the spread of Covid-19, with children being crammed in rooms. According to CJP, the channel seemed “to have taken this stand in a bid to insinuate that Muslims are still defying social distancing, thus making them appear to be a greater enemy than the coronavirus itself.”

Then again on November 6, 2020 another channel News Nation aired a show on “Conversion Jihad” and claimed that a Memchand from Mewat was allegedly forcibly converted to Islam and threatened by the Tablighi Jamaat.

Again, CJP complained to the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) on December 1, 2020. It explained how anchor Deepak Chaurasia called one Maulana Syed ul Qadri and forced him to tender an apology on behalf of the entire Muslim community.

“He also insulted him on air and called him a Jhoot ki Factory (factory of lies)!” said the complaint, further citing how the host encouraged hate speech against Muslims. After hearings, the NBDSA ordered News Nation to take down all videos of its show.

The NBDSA concluded that the channel had only “made generalised submissions” and “failed to submit any specific reply to the grievances of the complainant.” It noted a lack of due diligence from News Nation as well as a disregard for the Code of Ethics and Guidelines.

With the amendments made by the Delhi High Court for the Nizamuddin Markaz in 2022, devotees are hopeful that life can return to normalcy and people can pray in the building.

Related:

Delhi HC allows 50 persons to offer namaz at Nizamuddin Markaz mosque

No gathering can be permitted at Nizamuddin Markaz: Centre tells Delhi HC

Don’t compare Kumbh Mela to Markaz event: Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat

Markaz Nizamuddin counters all allegations of contributing to spread of Covid-19

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