New Delhi, June 24: Delhi's iconic Jama Masjid found itself under a cloud of controversy on Thursday after it put up notices banning the entry of girls, whether alone or in groups, claiming that there were incidents of "dancing", "shooting" of Tik Tok videos and making the 17th century mosque a "meeting place" for boys and girls.
However, by evening, the Jama Masjid authorities decided to withdraw the order after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena spoke to Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari requesting him to take back the decree. The Shahi Imam agreed to Saxena’s request on the condition that visitors respect and maintain the sanctity of the mosque.
Earlier in the day, the notices pasted on the three gates of the heritage structure opposite the Red Fort attracted the ire of the National Commission of Women (NCW) and Delhi Commission of Women as well as activists, who called it a "regressive mindset" that religious groups have about girls. However, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari sought to clarify that the ban did not apply to women who come to offer prayers.
The NCW called the decision “gender-biased” and a “violation of fundamental rights of the women worshippers”. Its chairperson Rekha Sharma wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and secretaries of Union Ministry of Minority Affairs and Delhi government’s Department of Social Welfare seeking appropriate action and ensuring the right of women to practice religion.
DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal said, "It is completely wrong to ban the entry of women in Jama Masjid. The kind of rights a man has to pray, women also have the same rights…Nobody has the right to ban entry of women in this way."
While the notices were pasted on the gates a couple of days ago, the issue snowballed into a controversy on Thursday only. "Jama Masjid mein ladki ya ladkiyon ka akele dakhla mana hai (The entry of a girl, or girls is not permitted in Jama Masjid)," the notices by the Jama Masjid read.
Bhukhari said the decision was taken after they noticed "a few incidents" in the premises. He said Jama Masjid is a place of worship but claimed that girls were coming to meet boys.
"This is not what this place is meant for. The restriction is on that," he said, adding, "any such place, be it a mosque, temple or gurudwara is a place of worship and there is no restriction on anyone coming for that purpose." He said on Thursday, a group of 20-25 girls visited the mosque and they were allowed inside.
Echoing the Shahi Imam, Jama Masjid spokesperson Sabiullah Khan said that women's entry is not banned. "There is a ban on girls who come alone to meet boys, who get involved in improper acts like dancing, shooting Tik Tok videos, etc. The ban is enforced for that," he said.
"This is a religious place and you cannot make it a meeting point, a park. This is not allowed in any religious place. One has to follow the protocol of the religious places," Khan added.
Women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari described the ban as "completely unacceptable" and asked "what kind of 10th century mindset is this?"
Another activist Yogita Bhayana, according to PTI, said, "This diktat takes us 100 years back. This is not just regressive but shows what kind of mindset these religious groups have about girls. It is extremely unfortunate."