Home Latest News Dispute over mosque turns into non secular flashpoint in India

Dispute over mosque turns into non secular flashpoint in India

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NEW DELHI — For almost three centuries, Muslims and Hindus in India’s northern Varanasi metropolis have prayed to their gods in a mosque and a temple which are separated by one wall. Many see it for instance of non secular coexistence in a rustic the place bouts of lethal communal violence are frequent.

That coexistence is now beneath risk as a result of a controversial court docket case.

A neighborhood court docket earlier this month started listening to a petition filed by a bunch of Hindus that seeks entry to wish contained in the Gyanvapi mosque compound, arguing it was constructed on prime of the ruins of a medieval-era temple that was razed by a Mughal emperor. The petitioners say the advanced nonetheless homes Hindu idols and motifs, a declare that has been contested by the mosque’s authorities.

The authorized battle is the most recent occasion of a rising phenomenon during which Hindu teams petition courts demanding land they declare belongs to Hindus. Critics say such circumstances spark fears over the standing of non secular locations for India’s Muslims, a minority group that has come beneath assault lately by Hindu nationalists who search to show formally secular India into an avowedly Hindu nation.

“The concept to bombard the courts with so many petitions is to maintain the Muslims in examine and the communal pot simmering,” stated Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst and commentator. “It’s a technique to inform Muslims that their public show of religion in India isn’t any extra accepted and that the alleged humiliation heaped on them by Muslim rulers of the medieval previous must be redressed now.”

The court docket case involving the 17th century Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, one among Hinduism’s holiest cities, in some ways embodies India’s modern non secular strife. The extensively accepted consensus amongst historians is that it was constructed on prime of a temple devoted to the Hindu god Shiva after it was demolished by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.

The 2 communities have up to now caught to their claims but in addition made positive the dispute didn’t worsen. That modified final week when an area court docket in Varanasi ordered the mosque to be surveyed after 5 Hindu girls filed a petition in search of permission to supply prayers there.

A video survey discovered a stone shaft alleged to be an emblem of Shiva inside a reservoir within the mosque utilized by Muslim devotees for ablution earlier than providing prayers, in keeping with Hari Shankar Jain, a lawyer representing the Hindu girls.

“The land on which the mosque is constructed belongs to Hindus and must be returned to us,” Jain stated.

Mosque representatives have refuted the claims. Rais Ahmad Ansari, a lawyer for the mosque’s committee, stated the alleged stone shaft discovered within the reservoir was the bottom of a fountain.

The invention of the alleged Hindu image led the native court docket in Varanasi to seal the premises, banning massive Muslim gatherings inside. India’s Supreme Court docket later overturned that judgment and allowed Muslims to wish within the mosque. But it surely additionally ordered native authorities to seal off and shield the realm the place the stone shaft was discovered, dispossessing Muslims of a portion of the mosque that they had used till this month.

The dispute over the mosque and survey has now been taken up by the next court docket in Varanasi, with hearings set to proceed Thursday.

Legal professionals representing the Muslim facet have questioned the authorized foundation for the survey, arguing that it was towards the regulation and a precedent most not too long ago upheld by the Supreme Court docket in 2019.

India’s Hindu nationalists have lengthy claimed that 1000’s of medieval-era mosques are constructed on the websites of outstanding temples that had been demolished by Mughal rulers. Many historians have stated the numbers are exaggerated, arguing that a couple of dozen temples had been certainly razed however largely for political causes and never non secular.

Within the late 1980s, Hindu nationalist teams began campaigns to reclaim these mosques. One such marketing campaign culminated in 1992 with the destruction of the 16th century Babri mosque within the northern city of Ayodhya by Hindu mobs.

Hindus consider the location of the mosque was the precise birthplace of their god Ram. Its demolition sparked huge communal violence throughout India that left greater than 2,000 individuals lifeless — largely Muslims — and catapulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Celebration to nationwide prominence.

A grand Hindu temple is now being constructed on the location after India’s Supreme Court docket handed over the disputed land to Hindus in a controversial 2019 judgement. Nevertheless, the court docket assured Muslims that the order wouldn’t be used as a precedent or pave the best way for extra such contentious circumstances.

The court docket in its judgment cited the 1991 Locations of Worship Act, which forbids the conversion of a spot of worship and stipulates that its non secular character must be maintained as “it existed” on August 15, 1947, the day India gained its independence from British colonialists.

Legal professionals representing the Muslim facet say the Gyanvapi mosque court docket case goes towards that very judicial dedication.

“The act was seen as sacrosanct, that it was there to not reopen previous controversies. However permitting a survey is doing precisely that — you might be scraping at previous wounds. That is what it was meant to ban,” stated Nizam Pasha, a lawyer representing the mosque’s committee.

The Gyanvapi mosque case additionally suits right into a narrative of Modi’s social gathering, which has lengthy campaigned to reclaim what it calls India’s misplaced Hindu previous. Many social gathering leaders have brazenly instructed they’d take such authorized battles head on.

Critics say the social gathering does so by offering help to Hindu nationalist teams that always contest such circumstances in court docket. Modi’s social gathering has denied this, saying it can not cease individuals from going to the courts.

Pasha, the lawyer, stated the submitting of such court docket circumstances was a “very fastidiously thought out sample” meant to bolster Hindu nationalists.

He stated the circumstances are introduced by peculiar Hindu residents as plaintiffs who say they’re devotees of a deity asking for the best to wish at disputed websites. As soon as the matter goes to court docket, the Hindu plaintiffs then push for searches of the websites and current proof that’s used to construct a media narrative and provoke the general public, he stated.

“It is rather troublesome to persuade a public then, already influenced by the media, that this isn’t true, that it is a fountain,” Pasha stated of the Gyanvapi mosque case.

In the meantime, Hindu nationalists have begun eyeing extra such mosques.

Final week, an area court docket accepted a petition to listen to a case on the location of one other mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura metropolis, situated subsequent to a temple, that some Hindus declare is constructed on the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna. Equally, one other court docket in New Delhi heard arguments this week on restoring a temple that Hindu petitioners say existed beneath a mosque constructed on the UNESCO World Heritage web site, the Qutub Minar. The court docket stated it would ship a verdict subsequent month.

Many different circumstances are anticipated to take years to resolve, however critics say they may assist Modi’s social gathering because it prepares for elections in 2024.

“These circumstances assist Hindu nationalists with a groundswell of help for his or her divisive politics. And that’s what they want,” stated Mukhopadhyay, the political analyst.

Related Press author Biswajeet Banerjee reported from Lucknow.

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