Hyderabad, April 05, 2013: The Archeological Survey of India, in a RTI reply, finally conceded that the controversial Bhagya Laxmi Mandir, adjacent to historical Charminar is a recently constructed ‘unauthorized’ structure.
At the end of the last year, Bhagya Laxmi Mandir kept the whole Hyderabad on tenterhooks where due to its continuous illegal extensions, violent communal clashes broke out between Majlis-e-Itehadul Muslimeen and Sangh Parivar activists.
This controversial Mandir issue polarized whole of Hyderabad, where even leaders from Congress party on the line of Sangh Parivar started blindly supporting temples illegal extension.
Moreover, some politicians and right wing Hindu religious leaders even suggested that Bhagya Laxmi Mandir is older than 420 year old Charminar.
The Mandir issue also affected the state politics where MIM parted way with its traditional ally Congress, terming its Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy ‘communal’ for facilitating Mandir extension in the protection of police force.
ASI also came under attack from heritage activists for taking mute spectator stand during the whole controversy, though Charminar comes directly under its supervision. Many people thought, ASI is going the Babri Masjid way on the whole issue.
When The Hindu newspaper created sensation in Hyderabad and in the whole country, by publishing images of Charminar from 1940’s showing no existence of controversial temple structure, Right wing leaders termed those pictures bogus, and labeled The Hindu a Communist mouth piece. ASI, as always was mute and refrained from commenting on the authenticity of the images published in The Hindu.
At the height of this controversy city based Heritage and civil rights activist Syed Qutubuddin Masood filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) with the ASI in December last year. Questioning ASI on the authenticity of the images published in the newspaper and its stand on the temple structure. When 30 days limitation period was expired and no reply was received, Masood had to file a complaint for delay, in the ending days of January. He finally received a reply from ASI, making public its official position.
ASI in its reply, a copy of which is with TwoCircles.net, to Masood on 17th January denied any delay in the reply, and attached a reply later dated 3-12-2012. In the reply ASI refused to give any authentication of images published in the newspapers, but provided its own three official photographs of Charminar in the span of 53 years from its archives
The 1959 photograph of Charminar provided by ASI clearly shows that there was no sign of any temple at south eastern minaret of Charimnar. In 1980 image, a structure of Mandir can be seen cropping up, in the 2003 image provided by ASI a complete temple with tarpaulin sheet can be viewed. This now ‘officially’ refutes the argument of Right wing Hindu groups that Bhagya Laxmi Mandir existed before Charminar.
Based on the documents and evidence available with ASI, it termed the temple unauthorized structure, as according to ASI rules no fresh structure could be constructed near 100 meters of ASI protected monument. ASI in its reply to 5th question in RTI query clearly stated, “As per Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR) (1958), Rules 1959, AMASR Act, 2010 (amendment and validation) the construction of temple in the south eastern minaret of Charminar has considered by Archeological Survey of India as unauthorized structure.”
Speaking to TCN, SQ Masood said he decided to file this RTI in the backdrop of rhetoric from communal politicians and religious leaders that Bhagya Laxmi Mandir is older than Charminar when The Hindu took that bold step and published vintage images of Charminar without any bit of mandir near to the historical monument.
Masood said his basic aim behind filing this RTI was to take the official stand of the ASI on the images published in The Hindu and to clarify its continuous ambiguous position on the disputed structure.
Masood though got the reply from ASI making clear its position on controversial temple, but he still feels ASI tried to bury its irresponsible behavior where it ran away when historical Charminar needed it the most.In the 4th question asking whether ASI received any representations or complains on this issue, ASI according to Masood made a blatant lie and denied receiving any representation, while the fact is many heritage protection organizations and individuals gave representations to ASI pleading their immediate intervention in the issue.
Masood said that as ASI has given permission to inspect it files regarding Charminar, he will take a delegation of heritage activists to the office to scrutinize more files and documents regarding the official history of Charminar and the disputed structure of Bhagya Laxmi Mandir.
Masood added, given the sensitivity of the issue, he doesn’t want to make public his RTI query, fearing another round of communal hate mongering on the controversial structure. But recently his RTI query was leaked in the media, and got wide press coverage in Hyderabad. Masood hopes his RTI query help the cause of protecting a heritage monument, rather than getting used into the hands of communal politicians.
It should be mentioned here that TCN has been highlighting
the whole issue since November, when the controversy began to take political
colours, much before The Hindu published the picture in December, on the front