Yet another Hyd heritage in danger
Sudipta Sengupta, TNN, Feb 20, 2010

HYDERABAD: Illegal constructions have come to haunt Hyderabad’s heritage cover yet again and this time it is a 400-year-old mosque, popularly known as Jamia Masjid. Heritage conservationists are up in arms with the mosque committee building a concrete three-storied building adjacent to this masjid.

Located in a dusty bylane in the Gudimalkapur area of Karwan, Jamia Masjid was constructed during the Qutub Shahi period and is near to another heritage structure— the 200-year-old Jham Singh Balaji Venkateshwara Swamy temple located just across the road. Though the mosque is among the oldest monuments of the city, little has been done to preserve this piece of history.

Activists and locals of the area claim that developers of the building have no permission to carry out the construction, which also violates the Heritage Regulation Act. As per the act, no construction work can be carried out in close proximity of a heritage area.

When TOI visited the site on Friday, construction work next to the mosque was on in full swing. The ground and first floor of the building, that faces the road adjacent to the mosque, seemed near complete and pillars have been erected to build the second floor. From a distance, the mosque was barely visible because of the under-construction complex, which also seemed to have ruined the charm of the monument.

The already dilapidated surroundings of the masjid, that has Mughal architecture features like the ‘chajja’, too seemed to be bearing the brunt of the construction activity. Some of these small platforms had either broken down, or seemed to be on the verge of falling apart.

While a mosque in-charge supervising the work there claimed that the masjid management was building a ‘dharamsala’, construction workers and locals said that the structure was coming up for commercial purpose. “We have heard that some shops would be set up on the ground floor,” said one worker.

Though the in-charge vehemently denied this claim, he did admit that no permission had been sought for the construction work. “This land belongs to the mosque and those looking after it can do anything they wish with it. Temples and masjids do not need any permission for such work,” the in-charge said refusing to divulge his identity.

Meanwhile, heritage conservationists rued that the masjid area has faced a slew of illegal construction activities over the last few years. Not only have ancient structures around the mosque been tampered with, some portions of the temple too have been damaged. “There are two ‘kos minars’ (medieval milestones where one kos denotes 1.8 km approx) near the mosque which are of great heritage value as they were originally the entrance to the Golconda Fort. The area around the minar has now been encroached upon by slum-dwellers and nothing has been done about it,” said Sajjad Shahid, an expert on heritage conservation.

Sharing Shahid’s concerns, Veda Kumar of Forum for a Better Hyderabad said, “The authorities seemed to have turned a blind eye to the condition of these monuments. At this rate, Hyderabad will soon lose most of its precious past.”