News Desk: More than 1,000 people assembled at Dwarka’s Bharthal Chowkin on Friday in response to a ‘mahapanchayat’ call given by Hindutva organisations to protest against the construction of Delhi’s first Haj house.
The Delhi Police registered an FIR against several participants of the protest for violating the Department Of Delhi Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines as the COVID-19 pandemic has not subsided.
The Haj house in Dwarka’s Sector 22 proposes to accommodate Haj pilgrims embarking on their journey from the national capital and will have many other facilities as well. Delhi is the country’s largest departure point for pilgrims, with around 20,000 of them going on pilgrimage from here every year.
The project is not new. In 2008, Delhi’s then chief minister Sheila Dikshit, belonging to the Congress party, had laid the foundation stone of the Haj house and allotted a 5,000-square-metre plot for it. After a decade, in 2018, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi finally allocated Rs 94 crore for the project.
Incidentally, work on the building construction has not yet started. However, Hindutva groups have started protesting against its construction claiming it would “disturb” peace in the area. Several groups such as the Hindu Shakti Sangathan, Samast Chetra Vaasi, Sampoorn Dehat and Federation of Dwarka reportedly called for what is termed as a ‘mahapanchayat’ on Friday.
Residents of villages near Sector 22 such as Palam, Dhool Siras, Bharthal, and Pochanpur along with some residents of DDA colonies in the area took part in the protest.
The protesters started gathering at Bharthal Chowk at around 10 a.m with groups of people chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, a slogan associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), too.
Speakers at the protest-cum-‘mahapanchayat’ claimed construction of the Haj House would “translate into terrorism and Muslim domination”. Some of them also objected to taxpayers’ money being used to build a religious site.
BJP’s Delhi unit president Adesh Gupta also addressed the gathering. He claimed that residents in the area were against construction of the place, adding that the Haj house should be built in any of the plots owned by the Waqf board in Delhi.
“There is a shortage of schools, colleges and hospitals. Instead of building them, the Delhi government is supporting a particular community for political gains. The Haj house coming up is against the wishes of people and we are with villagers of these 360 Khap Panchayats,” Gupta was quoted as saying.
Earlier, the All Dwarka Residents’ Federation had written to Lt Governor of Delhi, Anil Baijal, to cancel land allotment for the project.
According to reports, the building is supposed to have all modern facilities, separate dormitories for men and women, VIP suites, immigration counters, prayer halls, a library-cum- museum on Haj pilgrimage, and other essential amenities.
Delhi does not have a Haj house resulting in pilgrims, most of whom travel with their families, resorting to staying in transit camps built at Ramlila Maidan and Dargah Faiz Ilahi during June-July each year.
Of late, there has been a surge of such ‘mahapanchayats’ by Hindutva groups in the National Capital Region, hate speeches are being given against the Muslim community, including by some BJP leaders. In one such controversial gathering in Pataudi, Gurugram, the speakers reportedly made communal speeches in July, which appeared to be directed at the Muslim community. Later, a Hindutva activist known as Gopal Sharma was arrested for making provocative speeches promoting enmity and insulting a religion among other charges. However, a Haryana court granted him bail on August 2.