Hazrat Kalu Shaheed Dargah, Ahmedabad.
By Tarushi Aswani
The Hazrat Kalu Shaheed Dargah, which is over 500 years old, was asked by authorities on October 26 to remove the structure in 14 days to make way for ‘redevelopment’ of Kalupur railway station. The management of the shrine moved the court to challenge the notice, which deemed it as an ‘unauthorised construction’.
The Hazrat Kalu Shaheed Dargah, which is located near Ahmedabad’s Kalupur railway station and is more than 500 years old, has been slapped with an eviction notice by the railway authorities to make way for redevelopment of the railway station.
The shrine’s management, which moved the Gujarat high court, says it has requisite documentation to disprove the railway authorities’ contention that it is an “unauthorised construction”. The court has ordered authorities to maintain the status quo.
The October 26 notice, issued by the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), Ahmedabad, and the senior section engineer of the Western Railways, said redevelopment work of the Ahmedabad station will be undertaken soon and directed the dargah management to remove the structure within 14 days. The notice labels the dargah “unauthorised” structure, noting that it is situated on the station premises.
It is from the Hazrat Kalu Shaheed Dargah that the nearby railway station and the nearby vicinity have derived their names: Kalupur railway station and the Kalupur Basti.
‘Dargah predates Independence’
A dated dargah
In its response to the notice, the shrine management has pointed to different instances, with documentation from the government, which verified and authorised the existence of the Dargah. In particular, the management has a document from 1912, which validates the structure and its attached premises.
The administration also mentions that in 1965, the divisional superintendent of the railways wrote to the Mujavar of Dargah informing that the Railway Board had decided to charge a license fee of Rs 1 per annum for religious edifices standing on the railway land from the date of their inception. Had the Dargah been “illegal”, the management says the authorities would have never charged license fee.
Later in 1972, in a letter, the divisional superintendent (works) informed the president of Kalu Shaheed Dargah that the licence fee was revised from Rs 1 to Rs 20 per annum from 1965 onwards. On July 23, 2022, when the Waqf Act, 1995, came into force, the Dargah was registered as “Hazarat Kalu Shaheed (RA) Dargah” and was given registration number (056-Ahmedabad) by the Gujarat State Waqf Board, according to the management.
Shamshad Pathan, a social activist and advocate, alleges that actual stakeholders who would “suffer” from the station “redevelopment” have been “sidelined” from the decision-making process. “Policies should be formulated keeping in mind the sentiments of the people who would actually be affected by the government’s decision,” adds Pathan.
Dargah, devotion and demolition
Contesting the notice, the management moved the Gujarat high court, which heard the matter on November 10. Justice Vaibhavi Nanavati ordered the parties to maintain the status quo. The matter will be next heard on January 16, 2024.
Raju Baldev Singh (56), who has been visiting the Dargah for 35 years, says that the dargah is close to his heart, as it is a peaceful and religious place. “It holds over 800 years of faith and history. It has existed even before railways existed. The Dargah should not be touched.”