[Conversion of Dargah into a Hindu Temple] Gujarat High Court refuses status quo in PIL

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The Gujarat High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Arvind Kumar on Friday issued notice in a public interest litigation against the alleged conversion of 600-year-old Pir Imam Shah Bawa Dargah on the outskirts of Ahmedabad to a Hindu religious place.

Although, the bench also consisting of Justice Mauna Bhatt refused to order status quo in the PIL filed by Sunni Awami Forum. 

Appearing for the forum, Mihir Joshi Sr. Adv, submitted that the shrine was undergoing rapid changes and if a status quo was not ordered, the nature of the Dargah will change. Joshi further argued that this is directly in contravention to Places of Worship Act.

It was Joshi’s argument that the holy Karbala wall where Muslims go to pay obeisance had been paved over and idols have been installed in the Dargah.  He also submitted that extensive construction was taking place in the premises and such an issue is not a private dispute. 

Joshi further argued that a lot of people worship at the Dargah and the nature of the building has rapidly changed over the last one year.

The court, on hearing his submissions, issued notice to the state government, Ahmedabad Collector, Deputy Collector, Mamlatdar, and the Superintendent of Police. The case is likely to come up for hearing in August.

According to Indian Express, the District Collector, in January, had allowed the Imamshah Bawa Roza Trust, which has three Muslim trustees and eight Hindu trustees, to build a wall at the dargah. It has been alleged that the permission was granted ignoring the objections of the Muslim trustees and other beneficiaries.

Furthermore, the Indian Express’ article notes that the petition stated that the “illegal and unlawful actions” of installing idols on the dargah premises were being undertaken by the trust “in collusion with” state authorities.

It has been further alleged that, the Satpanthis, as the Hindu followers of Pir Imamshah Bawa are called, have been managing the trust to stop Saiyeds and other Muslims from performing religious rituals and to “portray Pir Imamshah Bawa as a Hindu saint”.

The Satpanthi trustees “surreptitiously demolished” the graves in February 2021 and they were restored only after police intervention, the petition submits.

Petition also said that on April 10, Ram Navami was organised on the dargah premises, and the videos circulated by the Vishva Hindu Parishad had urged Hindus to attend in a “show of strength”.

Case Title: Sunni Awami Forum vs. State of Gujarat