Urban growth kills heritage site

Big garbage dump, 'unauthorised' parking lot plague Masjid Moth

The fate of ASI-protected monuments continue to hang in a limbo. A protection board is fixed outside Masjid Moth, which says the monument has been declared to be of “national importance” under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958.

And anyone who destroys, defaces or misuses it will be punished with up to three-month imprisonment, or fined up to Rs 5,000.

But in reality, no effort is being made to check the damage done to the mosque.
Masjid Moth, meaning Lentil Mosque, was a new type of mosque developed by the Lodi Dynasty in the fourth city of the medieval Delhi Sultanate. It is now completely enclosed within the modern locality of South Extension Part-II and Uday Park, comprising residential and commercial establishments.

One cannot feel anything ‘historical’ about the monument. The wall of the heritage site has been turned into a sort of parking lot demarcation. There is a huge garbage dump outside the structure.

“People can easily get inside the monument after the gate is closed as there are no iron grills attached to big window-like spaces on the structure. They litter and misuse the heritage site,” said a local resident.

The Central government had declared that no construction activity can take place in a 100-metre zone from protected monuments. “There is encroachment right at the gate of the monument. And nobody seems to be bothered,” added the resident.
There is locality around Masjid Moth, and some of the houses share the monument’s wall as their external structure.

INTACH, an organisation that makes by-laws for monuments’ protection, stated that these structures cannot come up in isolation. “They have a setting to themselves. The implementation of the 100-metre law is tricky. The monuments are related to the evolution of the area. The village near Masjid Moth may itself be 200 years old,” a member of INTACH said.

“The Archaeological Survey of India only protects the boundary. These monuments also have an environment to themselves, and the ASI should also regulate their environment,” added the member.

“Heritage sites are nucleus of development. For example, it is due to Hazrat Nizamuddin, the locality came up around it. So encroachments can’t be removed entirely. But that doesn’t mean more degradation of the monument can be allowed. Such laws are necessary to conserve monuments,” said INTACH senior conservation architect Ruknuddin Mirza.

Deputy superintending archaeologist A K Pandey said, “It is not the ASI’s duty to check whether garbage is dumped right outside monuments. If the wall of Masjid Moth is being used as a parking lot, we can’t do anything about it.”

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