Gyanvapi Mosque and other Islamic shrines & monuments to exacerbate communal Hindutva


File Photo: Kolkata 12 Dec, 2018

With extreme agony and a tormented heart, we have been observing that in recent years, a spate of unabated communal violence, in the name of foisting Hindutva, is sweeping the country, leaving behind bloody trails and travails of hapless people. The frequent bouts of frenzy including murderous assault against the religious minorities on the pretext of so called cow vigilantism and love jihad as well as deliberate provocative actions like chanting Hanuman Chalisa on mike to counter Azaan from the mosques, wielding deadly weapons in the religious processions and raising anti-minority hate slogans while passing through minority—dominated areas and then levelling allegation of processions being attacked and, above all, the bogey of all mosques and Islamic monuments having been built by destroying Hindu temples like Ajodhya, Varanasi Gyanvapi, Mathura Shahi Idgah, Tipu Sultan Masjid, Qutub Minar in Delhi, Taj Mahal in Agra and Ajmer Sharif—all are purported to whip up communal Hindutva passion, frighten the minority citizens, engender fratricidal conflicts and keep the air surcharged with tension. This anti-minority bashing of the Hindutva brigade, in turn, is paving the way for minority fundamentalism to raise its ugly head and trap the minority youths into its fold much to the glee of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar because that helps them in further accentuating Hindu communal frenzy. In fact, there are some opportunist minority leaders who have been cornering Muslim votes based on fundamentalist and sectarian slogans, upsetting the religious-casteist electoral arithmetic of most of the opposition and thereby helping the RSS-BJP to win elections by garnering Hindu votes through further communal polarization. So, clearly all these are nothing but calculated moves on the part of the RSS-BJP to drive a wedge deeper and deeper into the unity and fraternity of the toiling masses by fomenting religious fanaticism and thereby avidly pursue the most infamous policy of ‘‘Divide and Rule’’ that the British imperialists cunningly followed in colonial India. A systematic orchestrated reign of terror is unleashed with an ulterior motive of turning this land of diversities that constitute our greatest civilizational inheritance, into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ or a theocratic state hoisting saffron flag which is totally against the spirit of Indian Renaissance and our glorious freedom movement. In fact, this is a grandiose design on the part of the ruling monopolists which the BJP, as their faithful political servant, is now out to implement.

A reference to Ajodhya verdict
The verdict delivered by the Supreme Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, had made BJP and Sangh Parivar jubilant as they could find out a judicial justification for their criminal act of destroying not only a historical monument like Babri Masjid but also other mosques, religious shrines and installations bearing Islamic names. However, this ruling to any rational mind as well as those having respect for the judicial system of the country, could not but appear preposterous as the contentions were clearly tinged with communal overtones and hence subversive of secular principles. Countless excavations by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Archaeological Department of Banaras Hindu University among others, in present day Ajodhya and different places, had yielded absolutely nothing. Not a single object or ruins that could even be faintly associated with the urban setting mentioned in the Ramayana, not to speak of such antiquity was found. Not even a coin or seal that could point to the possible historicity of Rama or the legendary Ajodhya was unearthed. So, the verdict surprised the whole world as well because nowhere in the history of democratic jurisprudence has religious faith been placed above law and historical evidence. Moreover, ‘The Places of Worship Act, 1991’, prohibits ‘‘conversion of any place of worship’’ and provides ‘‘for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto’’. While delivering the Ajodhya verdict, the Supreme Court had referred to this Act and said that it manifested the secular values of the Constitution and strictly prohibited retrogression. Yet it gave a ruling which contradicted its own words. Further, the Supreme Court’s verdict was awkward on another count. It accepted that the Muslims had been illegally and forcibly dispossessed of their mosque and that the 1992 demolition was a crime. Yet it allowed the site to be given to those who were still standing trial for that crime. In 1949, in a surreptitious move, in the darkness of night, idols were smuggled into the Babri Mosque. It was called an act of crime by the apex court. Seventy-three years later, another wrong was committed in broad daylight, under the supervision of the judiciary and with the Supreme Court watching.
Naturally, the verdict caused serious concern and agony among the democratic, secular minded, saner section of the people of the country including many jurists and created doubt about the neutrality and impartiality of the judiciary. One of the eminent jurists has not minced matters in calling the verdict a ‘crime piece’. As Marxists, our Party also considered the verdict to be virtually a supreme denial of justice ignoring all norms of law and prescripts of jurisprudence and ethics. But, for obvious reasons, the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar were elated. They wasted no time to announce that ‘Ajodhya to baas jhanki hai, Kashi Mathura baki hai’ (Ajodhya is only the initial shaking, Kashi-Mathura are still left). Accordingly, within two years and a half of the Ajodhya verdict and in the face of accumulation of mounting discontent against the misrule of the BJP on the eve of several assembly elections, claims have been proffered that Gyanvapi Mosque is built on the land of Varanasi (earlier Kashi) Vishwanath temple and the owner of Mathura Idgah belongs to God Krishna. One would recall similar claim was made that ‘Ramlala’ (God Ram) was the owner of the plot on which Babri Masjid was built.

Glimpse of Court cases over Gyanvapi mosque
In December 2019, a Varanasi-based lawyer, Vijay Shankar Rastogi, filed a petition in the lower court citing construction was illegal and sought an archaeological survey. In April 2021, five women petitioned that they should be allowed to perform daily darshan, pooja and other rituals of Maa Shringar Gauri and other deities within the old temple complex. Based on that, the Varanasi court directed the ASI to carry out the archaeological survey and submit its report in the court. The litigants claimed the existence of an image of the Goddess on the western wall of the mosque situated adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple. In March 2022, the Allahabad High Court rejected the petition filed by the caretakers of the mosque against the order of the judge who had appointed a court commissioner to inspect the site. The survey was conducted by the team without any hindrance. Several petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court, Allahabad High Court and Varanasi Court in the Gyanvapi Mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple case alleging that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the 16th century.
Finally, the case reached the Supreme Court on 13 May 2022 days after a Varanasi local court directed to allow continuation of a videography survey at the religious complex. The Supreme Court refused to grant an interim stay on the videography survey of the Gyanvapi mosque. But it categorically said that despite being sealed, offering namaaz (prayer) in the mosque cannot be banned. The three-day survey was conducted under tight security. On 16 May, a local court in Varanasi ordered the district administration to seal the spot in the Gyanvapi mosque complex. However, it was claimed by the Hindutva zealots that a ‘Shivling’ (Holy symbol of Hindu religion associated with Lord Shiva) was found in the Wazukhana (ablution tank) during the court-mandated videography survey. On 20 May, the Supreme Court transferred the trial of the case in which Hindutva parties have sought permission to pray at Shringar Gauri and in Gyanvapi complex from civil judge court to district judge court in Varanasi.

On the evidence part
However, in a revelation that is bound to demolish the Hindutva narrative of a ‘‘Shivling’’ having been found in the Wazukhana of the Gyanvapi mosque, Mahant Rajendra Tiwari of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, that is located adjacent to the mosque, has said that the structure is indeed a fountain, and not a ‘‘Shivling’’ as claimed by lawyers representing the Hindutva petitioners. In an interview to Aaj Tak, Hindi News TV channel, Tiwari said, ‘‘I have been seeing that talab (Wazu tank) since I was a child and used to go play there.’’ He added, ‘‘It is not right to call just any stone structure a ‘Shivling’.’’ In fact, he was more concerned about the destruction of actual ‘‘Shivlings’’ for the construction of the Kashi Vishwanath corridor that the BJP Prime Minister inaugurated with much fanfare in February last. He asked, ‘‘When the corridor expansion was taking place, they demolished Shivlings—Karuneshwar Mahadev, Amriteshwar Mahadev, Abhimukteshwar Mahadevand Chandi-Chandeshwar Mahadev. These are the presiding deities of Kashi. They also demolished statues of the Panch Vinayaks—Durmukh Vinayak, Sumuk Vinayak, Mukh Vinayak, Jau Vinayak and Siddi Vinayak—and removed them from their moolsthan (original place on installation). But no one will speak about this.’’ In fact, the Hindu priest also dispelled rumours about Muslims allegedly desecrating the ‘‘Shivling’’ by doing ‘kulla’ (spitting backwash into the tank). ‘‘Nobody does ‘kulla’ in the tank. They just use the water to wash their hands for Wazu’’, he said. Mahant Ganesh Shankar, another ascetic involved in prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple, revealed that to the best of his knowledge the structure found is a fountain. He said, ‘‘We have been seeing it since childhood. Fountains come in various designs and are located in the middle of water bodies. Sometimes they have a stone base. To the best of my knowledge, it is a fountain, and not a ‘Shivling’ as claimed by the Hindutva petitioners’’, he observed. Notably, while the Hindutva zealots are busy proving illegal occupation of land by the mosque, the fact is that a plot measuring 1700 thousand sq. ft. on the mosque land was released by the mosque committee when the UP government had asked for the same. Yet, the Hindutva group is now demanding prohibition of the Muslims to enter the mosque premises. In fact, a fresh petition has been filed in Varanasi Court in this regard.
The Hindutva plaintiffs claim that the earliest Vishweshwur temple was constructed in the 11th century by a Hari Chandra. But this assertion appears to be based on hearsay rather than historical research. Now they have further claimed that, ‘‘Historians have confirmed that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had issued ‘farman’ (edict) on 9 April 1669 for demolition of the temple of Adi Visheshwar (Kashi Vishwanath) at Varanasi.’’ But if one flips over the pages of authentic history, one would find that the earlier Vishweshwur temple was destroyed by Qutub-Ud-Din-Aibak during Mohammad Ghori’s rule in 1194. In the 1500s during the liberal reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, it was not only permitted to build temples but, in some cases, rebuilding of temples was even sponsored. In fact, some of the Hindu Rajputs of Rajasthan, who were allies of Akbar, participated actively in the construction of Banaras ghats (landing-stage on the river bank) and temples during this part of the Mughal period. This history is simply glossed over.

Ruckus over Mathura Idgah, Qutub Minar, Tipu Sultan Mosque and Ajmer Sharif
It is pertinent to recall that only a few months ago, in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the then deputy BJP chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had tweeted that the construction of grand temples was already going on in Ajodhya and Kashi (Varanasi), and that the party was getting ready to build a similar grand temple in Mathura. Such a position taken by one of the top leaders of a BJP government was in line with the age-old Sangh Parivar campaign to reclaim the land in Varanasi and Mathura where mosques are believed to have been built on temple land in the 17th century by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. What is the fact about the Mathura Idgah? There was no row over Krishna Janmabhoomi (birthplace of Lord Krishna) in Mathura earlier. The Mathura temple is connected with the Idgah with a ‘holy darwaza’ (door). Muslim women in a regular line of descent have been stitching the dresses and making the crowns of all deities including idol of Lord Krishna inside Mathura temple. During Ram Navami, an old Muslim singer regales every one with his masterly rendition of kirtan (a kind of Hindu devotional song based on Lord Krishna). Gajni Mahmood and thereafter Sikander Lodhi had plundered Mathura in 1098 AD. Based on that, the Hindutva groups are out to make people believe that Emperor Aurangzeb (who ruled India from 1606 to 1707 AD) had built the Idgah on the ruins of a demolished temple. Emperor Akbar had allotted 135 bighas of land for construction of Govind Mohan temple. His great grandson Aurangzeb, had neither reclaimed that land not destroyed the temple. Even he did not touch the Gopinath and Madan Mohan temples either. Rather it was notified twice in 1697 and 1707 that the temples would continue to own the lands as before. The priest of Madan Mohan temple appealed that the land deal (chaknama) issued during Akbar’s time was lost during Jath rebellion. Aurangzeb ordered fresh measurement of land and renewed the deed. In 1593, Akbar banned hunting of peacocks in Mathura. He also exempted tax on cows being reared there. Aurangzeb endorsed all these policies and also declared that no obstacle should be created on the grazing grounds. The Keshabdev temple which was encircled by a railing of gold by the brother of Aurangzeb, was the epicentre of the Jath rebellion. While suppressing the rebellion, Aurangzeb destroyed the temple. It had nothing to do with religion.
After the Gyanvapi Mosque survey, a controversy was fuelled over Delhi’s Qutub Minar. The Hindutva zealots claimed that idols of Hindu deities were found there and the monument was built by Raja Vikramaditya, a Hindu emperor, and not Qutub al-Din Aibak. Earlier, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spokesman Vinod Bansal claimed that Qutub Minar was actually ‘Vishnu Stambh’ and the structure was built with materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples. The Ministry of Culture of the BJP government, to everyone’s dismay, has instructed the ASI to conduct the excavation and iconography of idols at Qutub Minar. Now the ASI in an affidavit has informed the Court that the Qutub Minar is being preserved since 1914. Now, it is not possible to change its structure nor can the demand for performing any Puja there be acceded to. Now another Sangh Parivar affiliate, Narendra Modi Vichar Manch, has sought permission of the Mandya district administration, Karnataka, to allow Hindus to pray inside the Jama Masjid in Srirangapatna, which was built during Tipu Sultan’s regime in 1782 and is a heritage site maintained by the ASI. The Hindutva outfit has claimed that a Hanuman temple once stood inside the mosque. Claiming the mausoleum of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, the second largest pilgrimage of the Muslims after Mecca, was once a temple, another Hindutva group has demanded a survey of the premises by the ASI. More such weird claims might be in the offing.

Vivekananda and such cooked-up controversy over Mandir-Masjid
Swami Vivekananda whose photo is displayed by the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar to flaunt their ‘‘Hindu’’ credential, had severely deplored construction of temple and decorating idol with ornaments when millions were dying out of hunger and starvation. Strongly denouncing any act of ‘destruction’, he held that ‘‘destructive reformers are of no use to the world.’’ ‘‘Ten million rupees are spent to open and close the temple doors at Kashi and Vrindavan. Now the deity is changing his attire, now he is having his meal, or maybe he is providing pinda for all the ancestors of the atkurir beta, (i.e. sons of barren mothers) and all the time the living god perishes for the want of food, for want of education…A mortal sickness is aboard in our land. The entire country is one vast lunatic asylum.’’ (Vivekananda, Messages and Works)
He also exhorted that if anyone wanted to be a devotee, it was not necessary for him or her to know whether Krishna was born in Mathura, what he exactly did or when exactly did he recite the Gita. Would the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar dare to say before devout Hindus that Vivekananda’s views were baseless and nonsense?

Singling out Muslim kings and invaders is bigotry, not truth
Vivekananda had also said plainly that ‘‘the temple of Jagannath is an old Buddhist temple. We took this and others over and re-Hindunized them’’ Does anyone shriek with outrage at this. No. Because this truth provides no fodder for opportunistic sectarian politics and scope for gaining revenues, headlines, eyeballs, political clout, and electoral mileage. Much more ‘paying’ is to screech about Muslim invaders and emperors though history holds out that misdeeds on the part of Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh rulers are much more in number. Greater was their reputation. The greater their loot and killings. Truth-seekers can find many instances of sins and depredations of rulers of religions and castes. Historical heroes galore can be crucified as sinful villains. Hindu kings destroyed one after another temple for looting gold and costly jewelleries hidden under the edifice of the idols. So, a focus on wrongs committed by the Muslim rulers is bigotry, not truth. Equally flawed is equating the religious affiliations of the kings and emperors with those of the common people. Are all Muslims responsible for Aurangzeb’s faults or would one point out fingers at all Maharashtrians for the barbarity committed by the Maratha robbers in Bengal and Gujarat?

Definite design behind raking up fictitious issues
The obvious question arises: is there any logic, whatsoever, behind reclaiming plots where the common Muslim people have been offering prayers for hundreds of years by suddenly ‘discovering’ those to be ‘Hindu’ lands? Do such claims and heating up the water have any bearing on the burning problems the people, both Hindus and Muslims, are reeling under? Then why rake up such irrelevant and uncalled for issues? The answer is not far to seek. That is the bread and butter of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar. Is it not in order to hide the fact that all burning problems of life are bred by ruling capitalism that the Hindutva brigade, now in power with the blessings of the ruling bourgeoisie, is bringing the precipitated Mandir-Masjid conflicts to the centre stage and veering around those. And exactly that is happening. The BJP has released a theme song titled ‘Modi government architect of new India’, the highlights of which were the construction of the Ram temple in Ajodhya and the Kashi Vishwanath corridor in Varanasi. It even showed a glimpse of the upcoming Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura. Considering the meteoric rise of Hindutva fanatics in the last decade with obvious backing of the ruling monopolists, would it be incorrect to say that it is the Indian Muslims who have every reason to fear that their historical sites and religious places might come under the pall of destruction?

The Place of Worship Act 1991
In this regard, a reference is needed to ‘The Places of Worship Act’ passed by P.V. Narsimha Rao’s Congress government during the Ram Mandir movement. The purpose of the Act was to maintain the religious nature of a place of worship as it was on August 15, 1947. The only exception to this object was the Babri Masjid dispute. Section 3 of the Act states: ‘‘No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.’’ Section 6 of the Act made it clear that ‘‘Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 3 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.’’ Section 4(1) of the 1991 Act, inter alia, declares: ‘‘…the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day.’’ Section 4(2) stipulates: ‘‘If, on the commencement of this Act, any suit, appeal or other proceeding with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, existing on the 15th day of August, 1947, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate, and no suit, appeal or other proceeding with respect to any such matter shall lie on or after such commencement in any court, tribunal or other authority.’’ The word ‘conversion’ used under Section 3 of the Act has been defined under section 2(b) of the Act, which states that, ‘‘‘conversion’, with its grammatical variations, includes alteration or change of whatever nature.’’
So, if the suit filed by five Hindu women seeking a declaration from the Varanasi court that Hindus are entitled to have darshan, perform rituals and pooja of Maa Srinagar Gauri, Lord Ganesh, Lord Hanuman and other visible and invisible deities within the Gyanvapi mosque is upheld, it would mean changing or altering the nature of the Gyanvapi mosque from what it has been since August 15, 1947. Glaringly that goes against Section 3 of the Act and hence the plaint not only is not maintainable but the plaintiffs are liable for punishment. But then with fascist autocracy tightening its grip, even judicial machinery is also sought to be made committed to the whims and dictates of the rulers.
The aforesaid Act is currently under challenge before the Supreme Court by the BJP. Its spokesperson has challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 2, 3 and 4. It is argued in the challenge petition that the impugned Act is offensive to Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26 and 29 of the Constitution and also violates the principles of secularism. A three-judge Bench of the Apex Court had issued notice on the petition on 26 March, 2021 and tagged it with the petition filed by the BJP spokesperson. However, a larger Bench of the Apex Court had upheld the constitutional relevance of the aforesaid Act while dealing with the Babri Masjid dispute, back in 2019. The Court had then said that by enacting the aforesaid law, the state has enforced a constitutional commitment and operationalised its constitutional obligations to uphold the equality of all religions and secularism, which is a part of the basic features of the Constitution. Yet, a review of the Act is under way and a fresh petition has been filed in the Supreme Court in May last challenging the validity of certain sections of the Act. Because unless the Act is repealed, it is difficult for the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar to move ahead with their pernicious agenda.

Only assertion of truth by thinking people can expose the sinister design
Clearly, this escalation of hate and violence against the minority community, the planned hype over a non-issue like Mandir-Masjid, distortion as well as concoction of history and cunning efforts to obtain judicial nod to surreptitious claims centring on justification about Hindutva supremacy are not only aimed at creating communal polarization of the masses along religious lines to secure votes of majority Hindu population and be saddled in power but also to thwart surge of people’s organized movement based on the brewing discontent over the burning problems of life like astronomical rise in prices, mounting unemployment, plummeting income, increasing poverty, non-availability of proper education and healthcare, growing crime and corruption, spurt in atrocities against women, etc. It is the canine teeth of the communal beasts which seek to feast on the flesh and blood of hapless impoverished downtrodden masses. These communal fiends not only seek to precipitate bad blood among the peacefully living neighbours but take the fuelled paranoia to such a peak as to make the people dread staying in their hitherto amiable neighbourhood any more. The reported riots occurring in some places are not riots in proper sense but planned onslaught on religious minorities involving administration and at times, committed judiciary, by vested interest fostering communal Hindutva. Thus, in a fascist autocratic regime, crimes on humanity are committed with a veil of spurious religious sentiment to woo the politically unconscious masses in the process of plotted reactionary upsurge. So, such attacks are taking place continuously in the country. Hence, a united voice ought to be raised against this arch communal agenda of the RSS-BJP which poses serious threat to the very unity of the country and allows inflamed passion to rule over human sense and civility. We call upon the democratic-minded right-thinking persons, including historians, jurists, social scientists and other sections of intellectuals to imbibe the social necessity, harness their knowledge and prudence to expose the futile claims, negation of history and deliberate precipitation of social unrest anchored in arch Hindu communalism of the RSS-BJP. (Source: The Wire 05-08-20, 16-05-22, 17-05-22, 18-05-22, 23-05-22, 31-05-22, OpIndia 18-05-22, 19-05-22, DNA-20-05-22, India Today- 22-05-22, Times of India-23-05-22, India Express 24-05-22, Sabrangindia- 24-05-22, ABP- 24-05-22, 25-05-22, 26-05-22, 29-05-22, India TV 27-05-22)

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