Time for Bharat Bhakti?

In a big win for Hindus, Varanasi’s District Court Monday rejected Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee’s petition that the Gyanvapi Mosque is a Waqf property and found the plea of five Hindu women seeking worshipping rights daily of Hanuman, Nandi and Maa Shringar Gauri on the outer wall of the mosque complex located next to the Kashi Vishwan temple maintainable.

It was music to Shiv Bhakts as Har Har Mahadev had his way, say and came out trumps. In a big win for Hindus, Varanasi’s District Court Monday rejected Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee’s petition that the Gyanvapi Mosque is a Waqf property and found the plea of five Hindu women seeking worshipping rights daily of Hanuman, Nandi and Maa Shringar Gauri on the outer wall of the mosque complex located next to the Kashi Vishwan temple maintainable.
Predictably, the Masjid Committee is set to appeal this order in Allahabad High Court citing the Places of Worship Act, 1991 which prohibits conversion of the religious character of a place of worship, which existed on 15 August 1947.
Certainly, a long legal battle lies ahead. History tells us Aurangzeb built the Gyanvapi Mosque 1669 after demolishing the ancient Vishweshwar Mandir. The temple’s plinth was left untouched and continued to serve as the mosque’s courtyard which reportedly has a Shivling in the pond used for “wasoo” (purification) before namaz and why Hindus are being deprived of their religious right to offer water to the ‘lingam.’
In 1936, three Muslim petitioners moved Varanasi’s District Court demanding the entire Gyanvapi complex be declared the mosque’s part. The Court granted the right to offer namaz alongside prayers anywhere in the complex.
However, just like Places of Worship Act (PoW), the present case too has its roots in 1991 when a Vishwanath temple priest’s descendant and two others filed a suit in Varanasi’s civil judge court demanding declaration that Gyanvapi complex is part of Kashi temple, removal of Muslims from therein, mosque’s demolition as it was built on the old Visweshwar temple’s remnants and land be returned to them, bypassing the PoW.
In 1998 Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee moved Allahabad High Court asserting the temple-mosque land dispute could not be adjudicated by a civil court as it was barred by PoW Act citing Section 3 which prohibits converting a place of worship of a different religious denomination or a different class of the same religious denomination. Section 4(2) states all litigations, appeals or other proceedings relating to changing the nature of the place of worship (which were pending till August 15, 1947) shall cease after the enactment of this Act and no fresh action can be taken on such cases.
The petitioners contended the 1991 Act did not apply to the Mosque as the Mandir was partly demolished to construct it. Also, as change in nature of worship place had occurred after the cut-off date of August 15, 1947 legal action could be initiated, resulting in the High Court staying proceedings in the lower court for 22 years.
The issue was revived in 2019 demanding an Archeological survey of the entire disputed area. This was ceded by the city-court on 8 April 2021. Alongside, a five-member committee comprising archaeology experts with two members from “minority community” was constituted to determine whether any temple existed at the site, prior to the mosque. The Anjuman Intezamiya Masjid Committee challenged this in the Allahabad High Court which indefinitely stayed the survey.
On 18 August 2021 five women filed a petition demanding right to worship in Shringar Gauri temple daily without any restrictions along-with other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex”. Presently, devotees are allowed to worship only on the fourth day of Chaitra Navratra. In May videography of the Mosque-Mandir complex present status was allowed.
Questionably, is the genesis of the dispute only about Shringar Gauri? Is to just to rectify history? Ensure BJP upholds its promise during their Ram Mandir campaign, “Ayodhya to bas jhaanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai?” What does that have to do with the mosque?
Undoubtedly, the judgment’s larger implications are that it paves the path for suits of similar nature. To buttress its claim, a senior BJP leader underscores Kashi Vishwanath Temple as Lord Shiva’s most significant shrine and prominent among 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’ mentioned in Puranas. It is part of our national heritage and symbol of nationalism which is at the core of Indian consciousness. We have given Kashi a political thrust for installing Hindu nationalism as India’s dominant political credo.

More. The Hindutva Brigade avers the idea of communal harmony and unity flies in the face of historical evidence even as Muslims use historic religious sites as reference points to articulate their socio-political goals and build their modern identities with different visions of a modern State.
Musim clerics aver the Hindutva Sangh has found its golden goose: Reclaiming temples by breaking mosques to get the Hindu majority to keep bringing them back to power on an emotive issue built on the foundation of aastha and badla from Muslim invaders, who are history. The method is simple: instill a feeling of victimisation within Hindus that they had been dealt unfairly by the Muslim minority, first by Mughals and now by Congress and Opposition Parties which believe in Muslim appeasement.

Adding, “For the BJP it is a political issue for which they will gain benefits in 2024 elections, more so, as it Prime Minister Modi’s constituency. The Saffron Sangh wants to dip into their interest earnings from Ayodhya and make fresh investments — basically go on an expansion drive, inject fresh fuel in religiosity via Kashi and Mathura which are part of a grand effort to undermine India’s Islamic history. The motive is clear. Monuments that remind the presence of Muslims ruling India must be destroyed.”

Already, there are four instances beside Varanasi where the origin of various structures are being challenged before courts despite the PoW law: Mathura, Agra, Dhar in Madhya Pradesh and New Delhi.

In a sense, the dispute with its political undertones, underscores the nemesis of depending wholly and pathetically on the judicial process to tackle an issue of faith. Perhaps a way forward is to learn from the Ayodhya verdict. The judgment went a long way in becoming a catalytic agent to integrate India and make it a cohesive whole.

It strengthened the basic features of the Constitution and the confidence of the people, especially of minorities, on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. People showed their inherent maturity. There were no untoward incidents, fiery and inciting speeches, celebration or despondency.

Clearly, as the Gyanvapi Mosque-Kashi temple is related to faith posturing of assertion is not the best formula for amity. In a pluralist society, with a multiplicity of religions, Hindu-Muslim religious leaders need to wait for the Court to decide or the modus vivendi is to sit together and work on a solution. For starters why don’t ShivBhakts and Rahim Bhakts evoke the spirit of Rashtra Bhakti. What gives?


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Poonam I Kaushish

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