Ahmedis in Fatehpur, Gujrat district, have been banished from their own place of worship in Ramazan and fear that they will be deprived of the property by the local government and clerics.
On July 11, the first day of Ramazan, a group of Sunnis beat up the Ahmedis and kicked them out of the place of worship, telling them not to return, according to members of the Ahmedi community.
The Ahmedis filed a complaint with the police for the registration of an FIR against the assailants. The police did not register a case, nor heeded their request for protection. Instead, they sealed the place of worship, which is located on a four-marla plot, “because of concerns of a clash,” Dolatnagar SHO Riaz Qadir told The Express Tribune. He said that previously, both Sunnis and Ahmedis had prayed there.
In fact, the members of the two communities are related. The place of worship is located on four marlas within an eight-kanal property owned by an Ahmedi family which they were allotted when the Revenue Department conducted a consolidation exercise, known as ‘ishtimal’, some 20 years ago. Such land consolidation exercises are carried out every so often when inheritance laws result in the non-contiguous division of land holdings between heirs.
Police and revenue
The SHO said that according to the Revenue Department record, the building had been a Sunni mosque, but had been transferred to Ahmedis around 20 years ago. He said that the Sunnis were now claiming ownership of the place as a Sunni mosque.
The SHO said that he had seen the Jamat-i-Ahmadiya’s ownership document for a four-marla property within that eight-kanal parcel, but the document did not specify where exactly within that eight kanals the four-marla property was located.
He said that the question of ownership had been referred to the National Interfaith Peace and Harmony Committee and the property sealed in the meantime, with the approval of the district coordination officer. He said that the Sunnis had agreed to this, but the Ahmedis had not.
Asked why no assault case had been registered on the Ahmedis’ complaint after members of the community were beaten up and thrown out of the place of worship on the first day of Ramazan, the SHO said that since no blood had been spilt, there could be no FIR.
The eight kanals within which the four-marla property is located is owned by Tahir Hameed, who inherited the land from his father. Hameed, 18, said that his father had donated the four-marla property to the Jamat-i-Ahmadiya to build a place of worship, which they named Baitul Zikr. “Ahmedis have been praying there since before I was born,” he said.
He said that on the first of Ramazan, Munir Shah, Ahmed Raza, Maulvi Shabbir and others had attacked his brother Qamar Hameed and his cousin Adnan Ahmed and forced them out of the worship place. He said his brother and cousin had been beaten up. He said they were under severe threat from locals and had been told to disown the property. “Some extremist clerics have turned the locals against us and are trying to dislodge us,” he said.
Hameed said that the community had no faith in the Interfaith Peace and Harmony Committee, which is why they did not accept its role in arbitration.
When contacted by The Express Tribune, Asim Imtiaz, the vice president of the committee, said that he was at the patwari’s office and trying to establish the ownership of the disputed land.
He said that the four-marla property appeared to have been transferred to the Jamat-i-Ahmadiya by the patwari “by mistake”. He added that he was hopeful the dispute would be resolved and the property “would be given to Muslims”.
Tanveer Ahmed, another member of the Ahmedi community in Fatehpur, said that local clerics had been making worrying announcements in the mosques of nearby villages and he feared that there would be mob attacks on Ahmedis. He said that Ahmedis did not trust the committee to remain impartial on the matter.
“The Jamat-i-Ahmadiya has ownership documents for the property,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the police and the state to follow the law in settling the matter.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.