The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Airport muddle over mosque

One place of worship sits smack in the middle of the airport but cannot be touched. Another is located outside the boundary but faces an eviction attempt.

Last week, the airport authorities set out to remove a mosque outside the airport perimeter wall, believing it to be an illegal construction. Their effort was grounded as papers were produced disproving their case.

The eviction attempt, which entered its final phase on Thursday, was aborted on Sunday after documents showed the complex — with an idgah, mazhar and burial ground as well — near Gauripur, standing on land belonging to the mosque management. The papers also suggest the century-old vintage of the place of worship.

Officials said the mosque’s proximity to the airport boundary was a cause for “security-related concern”. But they could not explain why another mosque, located in the middle of the airport and impeding expansion plans, was not being touched. Muslim residents of the area admitted that this mosque could “hamper aviation operations”.

Officials said civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain ordered during his January visit that all structures along the airport boundary be demolished.

On that trip, the minister met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The two sides decided to let the mosque inside the airport, which the authorities had themselves labelled a security threat, be where it is, apparently because any attempt to demolish it would cause a law and order problem. If that be the case, why is the current drive against another mosque not considered so'

Neither airport officials nor the district administration had an answer to this question. All they would reveal is the follow-up action after the minister’s visit, starting with a meeting in mid-February, in which district administration officials and four municipality chairmen discussed eviction of encroachers.

On Sunday, all unauthorised structures along the airport’s western boundary were removed but the mosque complex could not be touched after community leaders furnished documents certifying legality. “We are checking whether the land, on which the mosque stands, really belongs to the mosque management (which the airport authorities contest),” said North 24-Parganas district magistrate H.K. Dwivedi. “No action is going to be taken before that,” he added.

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