CAIRO - A spat over unpaid power bill has kept one of India's oldest and largest mosques in the dark, forcing hundreds of worshippers to suffer in the heat and darkness.
"It is between the power supplier (BSES) and the consumer," Power Secretary Shakti Sinha told Indian Express about Delhi's Jama Masjid.
We have no legal role to play in this, he added.
The mosque problem started when the mosque power dues maximized over years without being paid reaching 41.6 million Rupees.
Along with worshippers, the problem affected residents in the vicinity of the mosque who suffered repeated power outage as penalty for unpaid dues.
Some residents said that there was frequent power outage that lasted from three to eight hours.
The problem occurred when both the Shahi Imam of the mosque and the Delhi Waqf Board chief denied responsibility for the power bill.
Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari said the property remains in the name of the Waqf Board which also receives rent for it so it was its duty to pay the bills, thought the mosque was separated from Waqf Board in 1977.
"But the Jama Masjid property remains in the name of Waqf Board. They pay the electricity bill, which has not been paid for several years now," Imam Bukhari said.
However, the Waqf Board claimed that it has never paid the electricity bill.
"The Waqf Board says they have no legal control over the place," a senior government official.
Delhi Waqf Board Chairman Mateen Ahmed denied any responsibility for Jama Masjid "as it is run by the Shahi Imam".
"We don't even know where is the electricity meter for Jama Masjid," Ahmed said.
Waqf Board has no control over Jama Masjid and it has never paid the electricity bill. We do not have any money either.
Some other masjids, which are under the Waqf Board, have bills of around Rs 2 crore (20 million Rupees). We don't have the money to pay even those bills, he added.
Despite worshippers' complains from heat inside the mosque, Imam Bukhari said he did not have any problem due to the unpaid bills and the outages.
"We have got generators. The trouble is for the namaazis (worshippers) who come for prayers," the Imam said.
The Waqf Board should give us an account of the money they collect and how they use it.
They get rent from the property.
We want the Waqf Board to change the property in our name, then we will pay the water and electricity bills, the imam added.
Known as Jama Masjid, the mosque is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India.
Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1650 CE and completed in the year 1656 AD, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India.
Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
Indian Muslims have long suffered decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.
They are under-represented in public sector jobs, register lower educational levels and hit by higher unemployment rates.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net