Hundreds of residents of Pirana village in Ahmedabad district’s Daskroi taluka took to the streets on Sunday to protest the construction of a wall on the premises of Imamshah Bawa Sanstha Trust, which will replace an earlier wired partition. Aslali police, who have jurisdiction over the area, arrested 133 protesters, including 64 women.
The trust is the custodian of Pir Imamshah Bawa’s dargah, a mosque, the Pir’s tomb, and a graveyard. Satpanthis are followers of Pir Imamshah.
The protest was carried out by Pirana village residents, mostly Saiyed Muslims, who claimed that the wall would cut off access to the dargah from the mosque and graveyard on the premises, as well as “change the nature of the shrine.”
Apprehending “law and order” trouble, around 125 police personnel as well as fire personnel were deployed in the village by the district administration.
As per a communication from the additional district magistrate to the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Daskroi on January 28, the Trust’s committee on January 25 passed a resolution by a majority approval of eight of the 11 members, deciding “to build a paved wall in place of the dilapidated wire fence”, as part of the renovation work.
The communication also instructed that “deputy collector and SDM Daskroi will have to ensure law and order is maintained during the (renovation) work in coordination with the local police
SDM Daskroi KB Patel said, “There is a simple work of replacing wired fence with a wall that is happening, with district collector’s permission. Three of the trustees had opposed the construction of the wall but the work had majority permission of trustees and from a safety point of view, permission of Collector was also taken to proceed with the resolution passed.”
Patel said that no untoward incident was reported Sunday but permission of Collector was taken and police were deployed owing to the sensitive nature of the place where a law and order issue happened in 2003.
According to a senior officer at Aslali police station, “There have been intermittent protests in the village for the past three-four months with Saiyeds opposing the renovation work on the dargah premises but nothing untoward has happened… The protesters said they will go to the collector’s office to give a representation but there were some elements creating nuisance by making videos and giving live updates (which is why we detained them).”
For the detainees, the officer added, “There has been no FIR or complaint nor do we plan any proceedings against them. Even today there were no incidents and order was maintained. The detention was a preventative measure.”
Three people, the Saiyeds, opposed the trust proposal to build a wall. One of them, Sirajhussein Saiyed, who led the protest on Sunday, said that the agenda that was circulated a day before the meeting never mentioned replacing the wired fence with a wall.
The meeting’s agenda included a “review of ongoing renovation work.”
“During the meeting they brought up the topic of replacing the wired fence with the wall, which we vehemently opposed and ultimately they passed a resolution with a majority vote. The constitution of the trust says that whatever a decision has to be made, it must have the approval of all 11 members,” Saiyed said.
“With the wall, an attempt is being made to change the nature of the shrine. The premise includes a graveyard, a mosque, a dargah and a samadhi (tomb). Now, the wall is being erected around the dargah, which they (the eight trustees) want to stake claim over, and cut off our (Saiyed Muslims) access to the dargah from the masjid and graveyard,” added Saiyed.
Harshad Patel, one of the eight trustees who supported the resolution, said, “The work is being undertaken with approval of majority trustees and with permission from the Collector. It is being done in accordance with law and to ensure security of people. All accusations by (three) other trustees are baseless.”
Patel also refuted that the constitution of the trust says that all 11 members must be on board to take decisions and said, “Everything works on majority vote, including our country.”