People try to forcibly enter ASI-protected mosque for Friday prayers

A group of people tried to forcibly enter ASI-protected mosques in south Delhi to offer Friday prayers but were prevented by police as the practice is barred in such monuments classified by the body under the category of "non-living heritage structures".

The people, who were stopped from from entering the Jamali Kamali mosque by police on Friday, however refused to leave and offered prayers along the road outside the monument in Mehrauli, an official with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said.

Some people also tried to enter the Qutub Minar mosque to offer prayers but were stopped by the police. They later offered prayers at a mosque outside the monument and demanded that ASI's Delhi Circle Chief K K Mohammad be suspended.

The incidents came a week after a group of people forced their way into four protected monuments, including the Jamali Kamali and Qutub Minar mosques, and held Friday prayers inside the heritage structures, forcing ASI to lodge a police complaint.

The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari had threatened to enter the heritage structures with other worshippers and court arrest if stopped.

People are not allowed to hold prayers inside "non- living heritage structures" protected by the ASI.

However, a group backed by Delhi Wakf board chairman Matin Ahmed, has maintained that prayers have been held at the site for a long time.

"Mosques are for offering namaz and we have strong objection on people's entry being restricted by tickets and other limitations," Bukhari said.

Bukhari claimed that evidence existed that prayers were held at the Qutub Minar mosque from 1947 till recent times and the mosque also has had an Imam appointed by the Delhi Wakf Board for 33 years.

"The ASI itself in October 2002 submitted a list of mosques where prayers were being held continuously since 1947 to the Home Ministry and the list included the name of the Qutub mosque," he claimed.

People had entered Qutub Minar, Jamali Kamali, Rajakibawali and another monument in Mehrauli area and held prayers inside the mosques last week.

An ASI official said it had become a routine for people to come in groups and enter the monuments forcibly and hold prayers on Friday.

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