Feature: In Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, Muslim residents move court to protect temple from encroachment

Ismat Ara

The Delhi high court on Friday, September 24, ordered the police to ensure that a temple in Noor Nagar, which is in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, is “protected” and that there is “no law and order situation in the area”.

The court’s order comes after a part of the dharamshala situated next to the temple, in the heart of Noor Nagar, was razed by miscreants last week. A Quick Response Team of policemen was formed on Sunday, September 26, and at least three policemen have been stationed outside the 50-year-old temple since the court gave the order.

The temple gates have also been locked.

Jai Prakash, an elderly auto-driver, told The Wire that the temple is now being guarded because of the efforts of local Muslims in the area. “The miscreants were targeting our religious structures because of their greed for money. The private builders wanted to take that land away and build something else over it,” he said.

Prakash is among the small number of Hindu families that live in Noor Nagar, a predominantly Muslim locality. The broader neighbourhood of Jamia Nagar was in the news during the anti-CAA movement last year as two of the biggest protest spots, Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Millia Islamia University, are located there.

Locals say that private builders have had their eyes on the dharamshala for a long time and have been slowly encroaching into the land.

The temple has been closed for almost a decade now and men affiliated to private builders stand guard outside it. However, the dharamshala was a common ground for locals in the area to hold community events such as weddings. In the past year, a Muslim man had also arranged for his daughter’s nikah in the dharamshala, Prakash told The Wire.

Forty-five-year-old Ram Naresh, like Prakash, was born in Noor Nagar. He says that the Muslim residents and their neighbours extended support to the Hindu community and even called on the authorities to take action against the miscreants who damaged the dharamshala.

Syed Faizul Azeem (Arshi), another local resident of Noor Nagar, says he was the one who filed the petition before the Delhi high court.

Angered by the fact that the administration did not take any action against the perpetrators, he approached the court to seek protection for the temple. He said that in spite of multiple complaints, no investigation had been initiated into the matter.

“I called the Station House Officer (SHO) of Jamia Nagar police station, who first said he was not in the area,” Azeem told The Wire. “Later, he promised to come the next day, but never did. I then wrote an application to the ACP, DCP, commissioner of Delhi police, but to no avail. And since the temple was at risk, I decided to move to court for its protection.”

Azeem’s decision was met with repeated harassment calls and messages. “People said that I shouldn’t take such a stand against powerful people…” he said.

Nonetheless, the high court passed the order, categorically stating that the temple should be “protected”, “maintained” and not encroached upon.

Azeem said that he understands the pain of seeing the religious structures getting razed and people dying because of communal issues.

Following the Delhi riots in 2020, he had actively volunteered to help the victims of violence.

“My appeal is that, the same way that I stood up for a temple, I hope our Hindu brothers will also stand up for a mosque,” Azeem said.

He added that there is a growing disconnect between the two communities, but efforts for peace should be made from both sides.

As for this temple, Azeem said, the locals will keep it safe.  Courtesy The Wire