By Saeed Ahmad (Georg-August Universität Göttingen) |
This paper illustrates a process of accretive displacement through a historical-ethnographic study of the demolition of a Muslim Mosque in the Jangpura-Bhogal locality of Delhi, India. Adhering to ideals of ‘world-class city-making’ and the attendant counter-discourse of obstructive ‘illegalities’, state authorities in 2011 demolished the Noor Masjid, a mosque built by a now absent slum cluster (removed in 2006). Following public outrage by the city’s Muslims and political leaders, the state sanctioned the rebuilding of the mosque close to the original site in 2012. This paper charts the pre-history and aftermath of the material displacement to highlight an unintended process of Muslim erasure in Delhi.
First, it traces the legal strategies of Jangpura-Bhogal’s middle-class residents, to establish the mosque’s illegality. Citing violations of the Delhi urban Master Plan’s intended land-use and the site’s attendant ‘encroachment’, residents mobilise state and judicial authorities leading to the material displacement of the mosque. However, the legal resolution of the conflict and the mosque’s reconstruction initiates new narrative strategies to disavow the space. Thus, secondly, the paper highlights how local public discourse employs common xenophobic tropes, the site’s origins in the material space of the absent slum, and the religious needs of present and propertied non-Muslim populations, to relegate the mosque’s presence to an elsewhere, outside the spatial imaginary of Jangpura-Bhogal. Through this, I show how imagined urban planning ideals rather than overt ideological efforts to deny Muslim presence, lead to the displacement of Muslim religious space.