Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the demolition of the Akhoondji mosque in Delhi

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

I normally do not step out of my flat in Noida, but last evening, 7th February, was a rare exception.

A dear Sikh friend, whom I have known for long, invited me to the wedding of a young relative of his, and would not take no for an answer..

The wedding was at a farmhouse in Mehrauli, Delhi, and there I was introduced to the young groom, whose name was Ranjit Singh.

I told him that he has the name of one of my heroes, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whom I regard as one of the greatest rulers in history. In his reign there were no communal riots, no forced conversions, no second class citizens, and no one was beaten up for not saying ''Jo bole so nihaal''.

Although a devout Sikh himself, the Maharaja was thoroughly secular, and endeared himself to all his subjects by treating Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, etc alike with equal respect, and many rose to very high positions in his kingdom.

The armies of the Maharaja never razed places of worship to the ground in lands belonging to the enemy which they conquered.

I did not tell the young man that a short distance away in Mehrauli something happened on 30th January which was impossible and inconceivable in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's kingdom, and would never have been tolerated by him : a 600 year old mosque had been brazenly demolished by the Delhi authorities, without even giving a show cause notice to the Masjid Committee.

The mosquehad existed when Timur invaded India in 1398 AD, so it was ridiculous for the authorities to say that it was 'illegal'.

The MasjidCommittee members said that they were treated like criminals

I did not want to spoil the mood of the young man ( or others present there ) on the day of his wedding, so I did not tell him that what is happening in India these days was inconceivable in the time of his namesake, the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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