The pious Sufi shrine in Ajmer is surrounded by men who have been accused of corruption by its own people and now another rift has started over the illegal occupation of the Dargah land for organising langars within the premises. While the issue has been reported to the local authorities and a police complaint has been filed in the matter, the debate has been going on for over a year and the caretakers at the Dargah allege neglect on part of the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA), for not taking a pro-active stance on the alleged encroachments on the Dargah land, even as the matter has reached the local court.
Requesting anonymity, a member of the Chishty family associated with the Dargah, explained, “This is our beloved Dargah and yet people are being allowed to encroach upon it. Organising langars is most welcome. It is part of our duty to feed the people who visit the Dargah Shareef. But encroaching on the land is not only illegal, but causes great inconvenience. Wooden logs are being brought inside the premises to be used as fuel. In such a crowded place, any mishap can take place with fire around. Cooking should not be allowed inside the Dargah premises.”
A well-placed source in the Dargah said, “With the help of the local police, the former Nazim (Administrator) of the Dargah took action and evacuated the langar. But now since the Nazim has resigned and the position is vacant, the encroaches are back.” The former nazim of the dargah, Colonel Mansoor Ali Khan, had recently resigned within four months of joining office, though his tenure was for five years. Allegedly, Colonel Khan had filed complaints against corrupt practices of the Dargah Committee members and later resigned after no action was taken against them by the ministry.
When The Sunday Guardian approached the secretary of the Anjuman, Ajmer Dargah, Wahid Angara Shah, he said, “Yes, encroachment has become a big problem here. There have been several debates and discussions on the matter, but no significant change has been made. Since the Dargah Committee allows encroachment, there are limited options. Earlier, some bamboo sticks and sheds were removed to discourage encroachment, but it has not been effective.”
Another issue that has been raised by some caretakers at the Dargah is cooking and serving of non-vegetarian food in the langars.
While some argue that it is strictly against the Dargah tradition to serve non-vegetarian food in its langars, Angara Shah said, “Serving non-vegetarian food is a recent trend here, but it is not cooked inside the premises. The utensils that are used for cooking in the Dargah are kept separate.”