Mandir-Masjid 3: Kashi-Mathura

Rohit Dhankar

[Continues from 10th August 2020]

The BJP and RSS officially have not said that Gyanvyapi Mosque next to Kashi Vishwanath and Idgah next to Krishna Janmbhumi in Mathura should be given back to Hindus. But according to Times Now a “Karnataka Minister KS Eshwarappa said that since the movement behind the creation of a Ram temple had fructified, it was about time that people come together to liberate the holy cities of Kashi and Mathura”. The very language of “liberating” “holy cities” is misleading, emotive, and acrimonious, as if the whole cities are occupied by some alien forces and need liberation. In another news item according to IANS “Kashi, Mathura Our Next Focus” says the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad. Earlier even BJP leader Vinay Katiyar had said that mobilization for building temples in Kashi and Mathura will gather momentum once Ram Mandir is completed. In June, a Hindu body had moved the Supreme Court of India and challenged a provision in the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, to “reclaim” land that belonged to Hindus. And if OpIndia is to be believed “Krishna Janmabhoomi Nirman Nyas” is set up in Mathura, with 80 sadhus from 14 states named as members. These are enough indicators that once the movement becomes acceptable to the Hindu population the RSS and BJP will officially jump on the bandwagon. Actually, they might be testing the waters by keeping officially aloof but allowing their supporters to initiate these divisive efforts.

These are threats to Muslims issues from time to time by various elements connected with the Sangh Parivar. These are deliberate and nefarious attempts to keep medieval wounds of atrocities open.

This country is a constitutional democracy and not some medieval kingdom under some bigoted despot. The country has an Act called “The Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991”. The purpose of the act is stated as “to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide 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.” It further states that “It is hereby declared that 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.” The act was constitutionally passed in the parliament.

Clearly in the light of the constitution and this act the political leaders like Vinay Katiyar and so-called sadhus like the members of Karishan Janmbhumi Nirman Nyas are acting against the constitution. They want to undo history, which is a foolish attempt. You cannot undo past events; all you can do is commit another atrocity in retaliation of some earlier atrocity. And that does not ‘undo’ the earlier atrocity, rather it adds one more to the record of history. This helps only in keeping the gullible public in the state of revengeful state of mind. Which helps no one, and harms all.

The AIMPLB has the backing of theological principles of Islam in proclaiming ‘once a mosque, always a mosque’ and sizable part of the Muslim population; what do these Hindus who want to take up the issues of Kashi and Mathura have? As far as I know there is no statement in Hindu shastras that says that “once a temple always a temple”. Therefore, they have no theological ground for the demand. However, Muslim insistence of ‘once a mosque, always a mosque’ may provide them with a similar rationale; ‘once a temple, always a temple’. Presently, however, it seems they assume a backing of sizable Hindu population, if not immediately then in future as a result of their campaign. They dream of the majority bending the constitutional provisions through its demands; and that certainly is belligerent majoritarianism.

History should be understood, and we should learn from it; but it cannot be undone. The demand for handing over Kashi Gyanvapi Masjid and Idgah in Mathura next to supposed to be Krishna Janmbhumi is unjust and infectious. There are no chances of any government or court or Muslims accepting such demands. Neither is it a just demand in a democracy. Supposing that it is accepted it will certainly fuel dozens, if not hundreds, such further demands. It exhibits a medieval mindset where injustices and violence done centuries back is sought to be redressed through similar barbaric acts today. We became a modern democratic nation when accepted the constitution, which promises equality, freedom, justice and dignity to all citizens. Muslims are as good Indian citizens as Hindus in this respect, and their rights are as important as those of Hindus. In acceptance of the constitution it is implied that India is as it was on 15th August 1947. Yes, this new India was built on the thousands of years old civilization, culture and religion. But is also is a democracy which was never before. This old culture is capable of accepting a democratic polity and further developing it.  But is it not a monocultural theological state. It is a multicultural, multireligious society and secular state. What we have today is brought about by a complex historical process. It is not open to us to undo that process and create India in the image of some ancient ideals, as understood by some people living in the past, be they imaginary or real.

The statements of many leaders who demand Kashi and Mathura sites also support Hindu Rashtra. It is certain that any kind of theocratic state would be a retrograde step. All theocratic states take away citizens’ freedom of thought, expression and right to shape their own lives as they like. Theocracies impose on people their vision of good lives. Examples of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are clear enough. I don’t think Indians want India to turn into a Pakistan.

Demand for Kashi-Mathura then is not a simple demand of taking back some temple land. It is an attempt to change the political character of the country, it is to say ‘no’ to democracy and rule of law.

But the real issue is: why sizable numbers in the two communities harbor suspicion and animosity towards each other? Unless we understand the causes and reasons behind this acrimony, we will not be able to find the right solution.



11th August 2020



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