The Railways recently issued notices to a mosque in the Bengali Market area and another near the Pragati Maidan metro station, asking them to remove encroachments within 15 days. A Northern Railways (NR) spokesperson said the structures are on railway land along the main route between New Delhi and Ghaziabad.
A senior Delhi Waqf Board official, however, claimed both the Taqia Babar Shah mosque near Tilak Bridge and the one near Bengali Market were properties of the board and termed the notice of demolition “surprising”.
“In 1973, the Railways had even requested the Delhi Waqf Board for a piece of land on which Masjid Taqia Babar Shah is located and 94 square yards of land was given to them. The mosque is a Waqf Board property and it was surprising that Railways was serving notice for its demolition,” Mehfooz Mohammad said.
He said both the mosques were part of properties handed over to the Delhi Waqf Board by the British. These are also included in 123 Waqf Board properties that the Centre has sought to acquire. The Waqf Board has already challenged it in the high court, Mohammad added.
According to railway officials, the process of removal of encroachments from railway land begins with issuing notices to encroachers, giving them a reasonable amount of time, generally 15 days, to remove the encroachments themselves.
NR spokesperson Deepak Kumar said, “The NR takes the removal of encroachments on railway land very seriously. Encroachments can pose a safety hazard to railway employees and passengers, and they can also damage railway property. NR is committed to ensuring that railway land is used for its intended purpose, and the removal of encroachments is an important part of this commitment.”
The notice issued to the mosques read: “Railway property has been illegally invaded upon. You must voluntarily dismantle any unlicensed structures, including temples, mosques or shrines within 15 days of receiving this alert or the railway administration will take legal action.”
“Encroachments that are not permitted will be removed in compliance with the Railways Act. Any damage incurred throughout the procedure will be your responsibility. The railway administration won’t be held accountable,” it added.
The officials said if encroachers do not comply, the NR forms a task force to remove the encroachments. They added that the task force includes RPF and local police, and will depend on the availability of manpower, machinery, and support from the local police and administration.
They also said it was a general practice in the NR to issue notices to encroachers whenever they come to the attention of the transporter.
This means the process of removing encroachments, in general, is not predetermined, and it can happen at any time. Encroachment on railway land is also removed under predetermined plans when it falls into the alignment of existing or proposed railway lines, the officials added.