Keeping up with UP | The Mandir-Masjid issue is not over - Hindustan Times

Keeping up with UP | The Mandir-Masjid issue is not over

BySunita Aron
Feb 06, 2024 04:07 PM IST

With the consecration in Ayodhya, Hindu groups are now seeking similar interventions in Mathura and Varanasi. Will solutions come from court cases or parleys?

For almost a century, as the dispute in Ayodhya raged on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, a host of people, from politicians to Shankaracharyas, repeatedly attempted to find an amicable formula, both before and after the demolition of the disputed shrine in 1992. Finally, the Supreme Court decided the emotive issue in 2019, ending a gory battle that irreparably damaged the social fabric of the country.

The Gyanvapi Mosque complex as seen from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. (PTI) PREMIUM
The Gyanvapi Mosque complex as seen from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. (PTI)

Now, the contours of a similar struggle are emerging in Mathura and Varanasi. And again, some voices are suggesting a negotiated settlement.

The circumstances, of course, are very different.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which had first given a call to “reclaim” Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura in 1984 at Muzaffarnagar, now has widespread public and political support. While the Sangh Parivar, and the mighty Bharatiya Janata Party, are united in their temple agenda, the Opposition seems to lack the guts of the late Mulayam Singh Yadav and Vishwanath Pratap Singh to take a stand against it. After all, they know which way the wind is blowing. Ironically, though, The BJP's resolution in Himachal Pradesh’s Palampur in June 1989 had endorsed the demand for handing over the Ram Janmabhoomi to Hindus but was silent on Kashi and Mathura. “The dispute at Ayodhya should be resolved through mutual dialogue between the two communities or, if this was not possible, through an enabling legislation.”

Thus far, some archaeological evidence in Varanasi also favours the Hindus.

Some people hopeful of an amicable out-of-court settlement believe it is tough yet doable, despite the heightened religious temperature after the inauguration of the Ram temple on January 22 and the permission to perform prayers in the cellar on the southern side of the Gyanvapi mosque last month. Knowing that it’s a sensitive issue, no one wishes to be quoted, but some in the majority community also hold the view that a strong leader such as Narendra Modi could convince and win the confidence of both sides. Simultaneously, some Muslims are also concerned about their well-being and suggest some cooperation might be better for their future generations. To be sure, a majority of the Muslims appear in favour of a long-drawn legal battle for the two shrines.

Athar Hussain, secretary of the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation Trust that is helping build a mosque at a five-acre site as ordered by the Supreme Court, has a cogent argument. Advocating a judicial decision, he says, "Indians, including the minorities, have strong faith in the judicial system. And we have a precedent too in the Ayodhya case. The decision after a due judicial process on the shrines will be better than through talks.”

However, SM Yasin, joint secretary of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee that manages the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, is not so certain. ‘It's too late now especially when their slogan is '3 nahi 30,000, nahin bachegi ek bhi masjid, ek bhi mazar' ( 30,000 mosques and not three, not even a single mosque or mazar will continue to exist).”

He was dejected by the developments on January 31 when the court allowed a Hindu priest’s family to offer prayers in the cellar on the southern side of the mosque. " They are powerful…they can work around the Places of Worship Act. We will not give our mosques, let them snatch it. We live for Allah and we will die for Allah."

In private conversations, some Muslim leaders say that with a heavy heart, the community should come forward and hand over the shrines to the Hindus in lieu of the protection of their other mosques in the country, and economic progress. But they are sceptical about the fringe Hindu elements and cite the disagreement from within Hindu groups to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s 2022 statement where he asked people not to "look for a shiva linga under every mosque.” His reference appeared to be the Hindu claim that a disputed structure in the Gyanvapi complex is a shiv linga, even as Muslims say it is a ritual ablution tank.

“We fought a legal battle, we appear to be losing it…Are we prepared to fight more legal battles and compromise the future of our coming generations? Let’s accept the ground reality, however unpalatable, and move forward,” is what some of them feel.

“There is one lesson in early Islamic history, also lauded in the Quran, which we need to recall. It dates back to March 628, as per the Islamic Calendar, the Hijri, and is termed as the Peace Treaty of Hodaibiya, which the Prophet Mohammad had entered into with the Meccans in an adverse situation. The Holy Quran had thereafter called this treaty as “Fatah-e-Mobin” (chapter 48/verse 29),” he said.

“The treaty clearly favoured the Meccans who, while allowing him and his supporters to Mecca had not only imposed a one-sided precondition but also deleted the word Prophet. The followers protested the deletion of the word “Prophet” but he signed as Mohammad Bin Abdullah. He taught people that even “jhuk kar samjhauta” is not unIslamic. Islam always advocated peaceful settlement of disputes.”

M Hasan also quoted an incident of the pre-Prophet era of his grandfather Abdul Muttalib, who was the leader of Mecca. During Abdul Muttalib’s time, there was an armed raid by King Abraham on Mecca. The aim was to demolish the Kaaba (the House of God). While all Meccans ran away and took refuge in nearby hills, Abdul Muttalaib all alone came forward and asked King Abraha to return his camels, which his army men had taken away. The king was surprised as he (Abdul Muttalib) did not fight for the protection of Kaaba. Abdul Muttalib replied camels were his property and he was asking for them so far “Kaabah is concerned it was God’s property and he would Himself protect it. Thus, for co-existence, there should be dialogue with an open mind.”

Hasan said that many in the community understand that while the dispute in Kashi and Mathura revolves around functional mosques, they do not hold the same religious importance as they do for the Hindus. “But do ask how long this campaign to correct historical blunders will continue. And this is where the Prime Minister could play a positive role,” he added.

VHP leader Alok Kumar has already urged the Muslim community to respectfully shift the Gyanvapi mosque to another appropriate place while handing over the original site to the Hindus for constructing a temple.

Some in the Muslim community are of the view that their gesture for a negotiated settlement will cement harmony, presenting them as a liberal and progressive community. But the BJP will also have to play a constructive role and contain and control the hardliners.

From her perch in Lucknow, HT’s senior journalist Sunita Aron highlights important issues related to Uttar Pradesh


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