New Delhi: The Delhi Wakf Board has come to the rescue of the historic Jama Masjid to ensure that the power supply to India’s largest mosque is not cut off.
The 17th century mosque has been facing the threat of a blackout due to nonpayment of electricity bills running to Rs40.16 million (Dh2.69 million).
The Wakf Board, a statutory body appointed by the government for five years, administers, controls and manages Wakf properties including moveable and immoveable religious and charitable properties.
Wakf Board chairman Mateen Ahmad has announced that they would clear the outstanding dues to the private distribution company BSES, which has been threatening to disconnect the power supply to the mosque.
Ahmad called on Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and requested her to give the mosque time to pay the outstanding amount in installments, saying Wakf Board does not have enough money to clear the dues upfront.
The bills have remained unpaid for many years because of an ownership dispute. While the mosque, situated in central Delhi’s walled city area, is managed by the Shahi Imam, the property is owned by the Wakf Board.
Syed Ahmad Bukhari, who is the 13th Shahi Imam of the mosque, had offered to pay the electricity and water bills but only if the Wakf Board agrees to transfer the ownership to him, making it clear that the mosque was the responsibility of the Wakf Board.
Jama Masjid was built by the fifth Mughal emperor Shahjahan. The foundation stone for mosque, where 25,000 people can offer prayers at the same time, was laid in October 1650. More than 6,000 workers toiled for more than six years to complete the red sandstone building, which overlooks Red Fort and cost Rs1 million at the time.
Shahjahan was accused of spending money on creating monuments like Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Jama Masjid.
The mosque was originally named Masjid-I Jahan-Numa but came to be known as Jama Masjid due to the huge congregation of devotees on Juma (Friday) to offer prayers.
BSES had disconnected electricity supply to the mosque for some time but restored supply due to public sentiments.