NEW DELHI: A day after some people claimed that remains of the Shahjahan-era Akbarabadi Masjid had been unearthed near Subhash Park, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) experts said the findings were definitely from the Mughal period but further analysis was needed to determine whether they were remains of the mosque in question.
Superintending archaeologist Dr DN Dimri, who inspected the site along with a team of experts, said a report would be submitted to ASI director general Gautam Sengupta. “There is no doubt the structures date to the Mughal period. The wall is made of stone masonry that runs in the north direction with a height of 2.5m. Artefacts like glazed potteries and Chinese porcelain have been discovered,” he said. Experts said the use of lime mortar and rubble masonry was evidence of the origins of the findings. However, they were not sure of the structure’s use. “It could be a part of the mosque or another Mughal structure that was demolished by the British in 1857,” said an ASI official.
Sengupta said ASI would decide its course of action after receiving the report from its Delhi circle team. “The entire area has to be excavated and explored thoroughly to know the exact nature of the findings. We don’t have any hard evidence of Akbarabadi Masjid to be able to compare the findings, though it is well documented that the mosque was located at the site of discovery. Equally, it could be another structure from the same era. The British destroyed several structures to level the ground around Jama Masjid,” said an official.
Although ASI has powers under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 to take over any site which has confirmed evidence of historical remains, it could face resistance in the present case as Jama Masjid is not a protected monument and the locals might not approve of its taking ownership of the remains.
MLA Shoaib Iqbal, who raised the issue based on a TOI report of May 25, 2011, said people would not allow ASI to take over the site. “We will rebuild the mosque at the same site. It’s not just a masjid that makes the area so crucial to Delhi’s history; a number of freedom fighters had assembled here in 1857 and the historical importance of the area needs to be acknowledged,” he said.
ASI’s confirmation that the ruins were from the Mughal era would also be a huge setback to Delhi Metro, which had marked the area for building the Jama Masjid Metro station. Conservationists said it was well known that the area was archaeologically very rich and questioned the basis of the state-level competent authority’s approval to DMRC.
Built by one of the wives of Shahjahan, Bibi Akbarabadi, the mosque was situated in the Netaji Subhash Park area, near Jama Masjid, and is considered the twin of Fatehpuri Masjid in Chandni Chowk. The mosque was destroyed by the British in 1857 because a large group of freedom fighters had assembled there during the uprising. Plans to excavate the remains of the mosque have been afloat for years and were initially part of the MCD’s Jama Masjid redevelopment plan.