Opinion – Kill the Jama Masjid

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Kill the Jama Masjid

City planners to build an underground mall next to this historic mosque.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Municipal Corporation of Delhi plans to build a 4-storey basement mall just 30 meters away from Jama Masjid, the grand Mughal-era mosque that is the epicenter of Delhi’s Muslim heritage.

Rs 1,200 crores would be spent on building a secular consumerist paradise next to this 17th century Islamic monument. The mall would glimmer with 600 showrooms. Three-tier parking area for 9000 vehicles is to be another attraction. All underground.

While a few kill-joy ‘experts’ fear that the digging could put the foundation of Jama Masjid to danger, many feel a mall could be worth the risk. “I am happy to know about the plan. I support it fully and would want the work to begin fast,” says Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of the mosque.

Who cares if a few saints too die in the process? Sufi shrines of Hare Bhare Shah and Sarmad Shahid, lying between the Masjid and the Red Fort, have no concrete prowess and it is feared they would certainly be destroyed following the underground vibrations produced during the construction. But bury the worries.

In these times of breathtaking boom where Delhi is frustrating mapmakers with new flyovers and new malls shooting up each month, the consumerist-city is in haste to roll out in all directions. It has taken over the quiet suburbs, invaded the neighborhood markets, and ‘renovated’ historic theaters. Nothing and no one is being spared.

Slums have been demolished and poor people banished. Showrooms glitter where once plastic-and-brick shanties despaired in darkness. It’s not enough. The lion has tasted the blood. We consumers want more multiplexes, more pubs, and more (exclusive) clubs. We desire bigger malls, taller malls, malls with apartments, malls with hospitals, malls with more foreign brands, malls with more parking space, malls with more of this, malls with more of that. The hunger for more is becoming fiercer.

To make way for more malls, time has come to sacrifice our forts, temples, mosques, bookshops, parks, benches, trees, streams, streets, and retreats. Luckily, the city planners have peered into our dreams. They are now rolling up their sleeves to make a new Old Delhi where we would go for Levi Jeans, Nike Shoes, and Benetton tee-shirts, not sherwanis, sarees and shararas; for Chetan Bhagat and Deepak Chopra bestsellers, not Qurratulain Hyder novels and Mirza Ghalib verses; for chocolate gelatos, not pista kulfis.

India is booming. Delhi is shining. Now we have money enough to kill our souls. Nothing matters once that’s done. Go, kill the Jama Masjid. Allah has his jannat. We will have our jehunnums.

You may also like to read Photo Essay–Time Out Jama Masjid.