The Gujarat High Court on Friday refused to issue an order of status quo against the conversion of 600-year-old Pir Imam Shah Bawa Dargah in Ahmedabad to Shree Nishkalnki Narayan Tirthdhaam Prnapih, a Hindu religious place.
The petitioner advocate, Mihir Joshi, on behalf of the Sunni Awami Forum said that the shrine was undergoing rapid changes and that unless the status quo was ordered, “the entire nature (of the place of worship) will change”. He also added that such changes were “impermissible” as per the Places of Worship Act and would have “larger repercussions”.
“Currently extensive construction is underway in the middle of the ground,” he said, adding that it was not “a private dispute”. “Something in which faith is reposed, completely, slowly and steadily over the period of one year (gets changed),” Joshi told the division bench.
The division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Mauna Bhatt refused to order the status quo. The bench issued notices to the respondents, state government, Ahmedabad collector, deputy collector, mamlatdar, superintendent police, police inspector of the Aslali police station and the Imamshah Bawa Roza Trust. They have been made respondents to the petition and the notices are returnable by August 8.
The forum’s trustee Usman Haji Ahmed Qureshi stated in the submission that the dargah is now been converted to “Shree Nishkalnki Narayan Tirthdhaam Prnapih”, in violation of the Places of Worship Act. The petition further stated that the “illegal and unlawful actions” of installing idols on the dargah premises were being undertaken by the trust “in collusion with” state authorities. The Satpanthis, as the Hindu followers of Pir Imamshah Bawa, are called, have been managing the trust to stop Saiyeds and other Muslims from performing religious rituals and to “portray Pir Imamshah Bawa as a Hindu saint”, it alleged.
In January, the district collector allowed the Imamshah Bawa Roza Trust, which has three Muslim trustees and eight Hindu trustees, to build a wall at the dargah, ignoring the objections of the Muslim trustees and other beneficiaries.
Following the district collector’s permission to replace the wired fence with a wall, there has been continuous “illegal” construction, and with state authorities “acting in collusion” with the Satpanthi members of the trust, “the dargah has now been converted into a temple with idols being installed,” replacing the “soul and essence” of the dargah in contravention of the Act.
The petition also said that on April 10, Ram Navami was organised on the dargah premises, which videos circulated by the Vishva Hindu Parishad had urged Hindus to attend in a “show of strength”.