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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 17:51 GMT
Sikhs hand back mosque
Granth Sahib
Sikhs kept their holy book in the mosque
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By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

A 400-year-old mosque built by a Sikh religious figure, Guru Hargovind Singh, in the northern Indian state of Punjab has been handed back to Muslims after 55 years.

Map showing Gurdaspur in Punjab
A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the Sikh caretakers of the building and the Punjab Waqf Board - an elected body of Muslim theologians - in Hargovindpur village in Gurdaspur district.

Under the agreement, the mosque will be run by the Muslims.

Speaking to the BBC, a senior official of the waqf board, Dr Mohammed Rizwanul Haque, said the mosque was looked after by Sikhs after the Muslims in the area migrated to Pakistan during partition of the India sub-continent in 1947.

He said a Sikh priest kept their holy book - Guru Granth Sahib - in the mosque and used to give daily sermons.

The book has now been shifted to an adjoining building so that the mosque can be preserved in its original form as by Guru Hargovind Singh.

''The performance of Muslim religious prayers in the mosque after 55 years would be recorded in history as an event when Sikhs showed so much magnanimity towards Muslims,'' said Dr Haque.

Historic monument

Local government officials told the BBC that this mosque is a historical monument.

Last year, Waqf board officials approached the Sikhs requesting them to hand over the mosque.

The Sikhs finally agreed after a series of meetings.

The authorities said repairs on the mosque started last month and would take some time.

See also:

22 Nov 98 | South Asia
Mass celebration for Sikh anniversary
08 Apr 99 | South Asia
The cornerstones of Sikhism
14 Apr 99 | South Asia
The Sikh Khalsa: Community of the Pure
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