Today I want to write about a diabolical plan about how more than a lakh sq. feet of land was grabbed by vested interests, who built ‘mazaars’ and ‘dargahs’ on government plots, in the sacred land of Lord Krishna in Bet Dwarka, an island off Okha coast in Devbhumi Dwarka district of Gujarat.
Dwarka Dham is considered one of the four most sacred pilgrimage shrines (Dhams) among more than a billion Hindus. This is the place where Lord Krishna met his poor classmate Sudama. There is an ancient idol of Lord Krishna, said to be nearly 5,000-years-old in Dwarka. Over the years, much of this sacred island was encroched by people, who built ‘mazaars’, ‘dargahs’, godowns and residential buildings.
In the last four days, the Gujarat government carried out a massive demolition drive destroying more than 50 encroachments and freed nearly one lakh sq. feet of government land.
How did vested interests encroach on such territory, forcing Hindus to sell off their properties and leave the island? I will go into it in details.
India TV reporter Nirnay Kapoor went to Bet Dwarka and gathered information about all the illegal structures and encroachments that had been built. The joint demolition drive began on Saturday in which Okha municipality and Dwarka district administration officials took part.
The demolitions took place in Balapar, Abhyamata temple, Hanuman Dandi Road, Okha municipality ward office, Dhingeshwar Mahadev temple and several other localities. The encroachers did not even spare government wasteland and forest land.
Using bulldozers, the authorities demolished Dargah Siddi Baba, Dargah Bala Pir, Dargah Qamruddin Shah Pir, Hazrat Daulat Shah Pir and Alam Shah Pir mazaar. More than a thousand security personnel from Gujarat Police, State Reserve Police and central para military forces were deployed to prevent any violence. The entire operation was supervised by the district collector of Devbhumi Dwarka, IG Police of Rajkot range, three SP rank officers, nine DSPs, and 20 inspectors.
How did so many dargahs and mazaars come up in a place revered by millions of Hindus, particularly Krishna devotees? Apart from its religious importance, Bet Dwarka is at a strategic location, close to the international maritime border in the Arabian Sea. Bet Dwarka and several other small islands fall under Ward Number 5 of Okha municipality. During the last few years, large scale encroachments took place, in a planned manner.
Government land, particularly waste land and forest land and also areas near Hindu temples were targeted by encroachers. Most of the encroachments were named as ‘dargahs’ and ‘mazaars’. Huge sea-facing residential buildings were built on encroached land. Godowns were set up in coastal areas to show that the illegal structures were being used for religious and community purpose.
The district administration carried out a survey to identify illegal structures and also individuals who built those structures. The major encroachers include Saleh Mohammed Sanghar, Ayub Sumania, Talib Latif Jadeja, Hamid T. Jadeja and Hussain Alena Jadeja.
Bet Dwarka island is famous for its Dwarkadheesh Mukhya Mandir. There are, in all, 42 islands including Bet Dwarka. Except the main island, all other islands have no inhabitants. It is also difficult to reach these islands. Launches and boats are used to reach these islands from Gujarat mainland. For coastal security agencies, these illegally built religious structures have become a cause for worry. Illegal activities take place with mazaar and dargahs as facade. Our reporter was surprised to find how building material on a huge scale reached these small islands from the mainland.
Bet Dwarka island is located hardly 58 nautical miles away from the India-Pakistan maritime border. In recent weeks, the Coast Guards seized several Pakistani smugglers inside Indian space, along with drug consignments. Security agencies had received reports that religious structures built on uninhabited islands were being used for smuggling purpose.
Gujarat Police IG Rajkot Range Sandeep Singh told India TV reporter that most of the people living in Bet Dwarka island are fishermen, but in the last few years, several traders, dealing in illicit business, started visiting these islands. They brought construction material from Gujarat mainland and built illegal structures. They named most of the structures as mazaar or dargahs, to avoid detection and demolition.
In the last four days, in course of the demolition drive, residential properties of several businessmen were also demolished. Among them is Safar Panjari, a local strongman who used to incite Muslims in the name of anti-CAA-NRC protests. Another local strongman Haji Ghani Pilani has a son in Indian jail, while his other son is in a Pakistani jail.
The SP of Dwarka district Nitish Pandey said, demolition drives were undertaken in the past too, but proved unsuccessful. The encroachers reoccupied government land. There is a plethora of laws like coastal area construction law and municipal laws, which these encroachers used to take advantage of. But this time, Pandey said, the district administration prepared a comprehensive action plan.
Bet Dwarka island now has a population of nearly 10,000, and majority of them are Muslims. There are hardly 1,000 to 1,500 Hindus. Initially, the inhabitants had to face drinking water scarcity and lack of communication with the mainland. Fishermen started living in these islands, but most of the Hindus have now fled because of sudden rise in the number of Muslims.
The main priest of Dwarkadheesh temple said, every year five to ten Hindu families used to migrate from Bet Dwarka island, because of encroachments and other illegal activities. The temple priests are now happy with the demolition drive.
The overall demography in Lord Krishna’s land, Bet Dwarka, has now changed completely. On one hand, Hindus are leaving this island, while the Muslim population is rising fast. Bet Dwarka is sensitive not only from the point of view of Hindu pilgrimage, but also from India’s security interests. The coastline of Pakistan is not far from here. Drug smugglers and criminal mafia find it a convenient location for their nefarious activities.
It is good that the local administration has taken note of the problem and has taken action, but the question arises: Why didn’t anybody notice when government land was being encroached and ‘mazaar’ and ‘dargahs’ were being built? This question surely begs an answer.
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