‘Gyanvapi Mosque’, Turning into Another Babri Mosque Incident
By Sajjad Shaukat
In the Indian general elections of 2019, BJP and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won huge majority in the Lok Sabha. Hindu majority was mobilized on ‘hate Muslim’ slogans and ‘anti-Pakistan’ jargons.
Indian Prime Nerendar Modi’s extremist party BJP had also got a land sliding triumph in the Indian elections 2014 on the basis of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan slogans. Indian election-campaign against Islam, Muslims and Pakistan enabled BJP hardliner Modi to become Indian prime minister. Whereas, the Muslim community in India had felt alienated, frightened and perturbed, as most of them were also effectively disenfranchised.
In this regard, various developments like unprecedented rise of Hindu extremism, persecution of Muslims, assaults on Muslims, including their places of worships and property by the fanatic Hindu mobs, inclusion of Hindu religious books in curriculum, forced conversion of Muslims into Hindus and ban on beef and cow slaughter clearly showed that encouraged by the Hindu fundamentalist groups such as BJP, RSS VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, including other similar parties have been promoting religious and ethnic chauvinism in India by propagating the ideology of ‘Hindutva’ (Hindu nationalism) which is the genesis of Hindu terrorism.
However, BJP played the same anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan card to gain votes of a majority of Hindus in the general elections 2019. Therefore, since the Prime Minister Modi returned to power, he has been implementing anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda with the support of fanatic coalition outfits to further strengthen the ideology of ‘Hindutva’.
26 years ago, Indian Constitution which claims India to be a secular state was torn into pieces when on December 6, 1992, a large crowd of Hindu Karsevaks (Volunteers) entirely demolished the 16th-century Babri Masjid (Mosque) in Ayodhya, Utter Pradesh in a preplanned attempt to reclaim the land known as RAM Janmabhoomi–birthplace of the god.
In a 2005 book, India’s former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Joint Director Maloy Krishna Dhar wrote that Babri mosque demolition was “planned 10 months in advance by top leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP BJP/Sangh Parivar, VHP, Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal and the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Raow. Dhar elaborated, “He had drawn up the blueprint of the Hindutva [Hindu nationalism] assault at Ayodhya in December 1992.”
However, on December 6, 1992, the RSS and its affiliates organized a rally involving 150,000 VHP and BJP Karsevaks at the site of the mosque. The ceremonies included speeches by BJP leaders such as L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. During the first few hours of the rally, the crowd began raising militant slogans. A police cordon had been placed around the mosque in preparation for attack. Nevertheless, around noon, a young man managed to slip past the cordon and climb the mosque itself, brandishing a saffron flag. This was seen as a signal by the mob, who then stormed the structure. The police cordon, vastly outnumbered, fled. The mob set upon the building with axes, hammers, and grappling hooks, and within a few hours, the entire mosque was leveled. Hindu fanatics also destroyed numerous other mosques within the town.
A 2009 report of the inquiry commission clearly identified BJP, RSS and VHP as the organizations responsible for the incident.
Now, another Babri Mosque episode is in the making. In this connection, on the eve of filing nomination papers for Lok Sabha 2019 from Varanasi (Kashi), Uttar Pardesh (UP), Prime Minister Modi had announced to materialize the construction of “Kashi Vishwanath temple or Vishwanath dham” at a cost INR 600 crores. Kashi is the sacred place of Hindus on the embankments of River Ganga, attributed to Shiv god generally represented by “Shiv Ling”. The project aims at clearing an area of around 45,000 square metres—create dedicated 50 feet wide pathways. Being the constituency of Modi, the area and the project has been given extra ordinary attention by the UP government under Hindu extremist Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Reportedly, UP authorities have stepped up the clearing activities and destroyed many old buildings/temples and the area is full of rubble. About 45,000 square feet of land surrounding the temple has been cleared, while demolishing about 300 homes and displacing 600 families in the process. Many local residents have also complained that their houses were got vacated or forcibly purchased. To register their dislike, local have started protest activities. Local Hindu priests also seem furious over destruction of their temples and even dare to allege both “Modi and Adityanath” worse than Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Swami Avimukteshwaran is the head of the Sri Vidya Math, Varanasi and one of the disciples of Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati. He has been among the more vociferous opponents of the project. He maintains that “They have destroyed 15 or 20 temples and numerous idols. They had been there since ancient times. It is an attack on our faith”. Varanasi residents also claim that “This corridor is being built by crushing the soul of Kashi”.
Apart from destruction of Hindu temples and desecration of Shiv ling places, there is another issue of grave importance, fomenting in the area, There is centuries old Muslim mosque titled the ‘Gyanvapi mosque’ which is adjacent to Modi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple project. Reportedly, some Hindu extremist activists had attempted to burry an idol of bull (Nandi) to claim (on the lines of Babri mosque issue) that the mosque site was a Hindu site, however, they were caught red handed and the issue was hushed up.
Much like the history of the Babri Masjid site, Hindu groups have been continuously claiming rights to the land of the ‘Gyanvapi mosque’. In 1936, after disputes with the Hindu residents of the area, Muslims filed a suit in civil court in then Benarus (now Varanasi). In 1937, the court allowed the Muslim to offer prayers and celebrate ritual of the Sufi saint, buried in the courtyard of the mosque.
In 1991, PV Narasimha Rao government passed “the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act”, which states that all religious sites would be maintained as they were on 15 August 1947.
Despite this law, in 1991, RSS activist Somnath Vyas filed a case in a Varanasi civil court, demanding that the mosque site be handed over to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
As the work for the corridor has accelerated, so has the frequency of incidents related to the Gyanvapi mosque? Not long after the Allahabad high court issued its stay, on October 25, 2018, a government contractor demolished the Chhattadwar Chabutra, the boundary wall on the north side of the mosque site. The incident caused flare-up among the local residents. Muslims from the area gathered, and protested the administration’s decision, stating that it would endanger the mosque.
Meanwhile, the corridor project—ongoing demolition of structures surrounding the mosque site and posed dangers to the mosque, have also prompted the state government to increase the security. Since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the area (Varanasi) has been also witnessing Hindu-Muslim tension every year and there are imminent chances of an imploding sit with regard the ‘Gyanvapi mosque’ turning into another Babri Mosque incident like issue as Modi’s Kashi Vishwanath corridor has provided Hindu extremist groups a golden opportunity to demolish the mosque.
While Muslim majority-states are honoring Modi with titles and allowing construction of Hindu temples in India, Modi and RSS Hindu extremists are gradually destroying Muslim relics with impunity. The ‘Gyanvapi mosque’ issue will be eye opener for the Indian Muslims to recalibrate their loyalties with India as “this is Modi’s new India where minorities specially the Muslims has no place”.
Apathetic attitude of international community towards Modi’s muscular policies against the Muslims, including the Kashmiri people is unfortunate and shameful. As the world has been opposed to extremism of all sorts, why the international community is “deaf and dumb” to the exploding Hindu extremism?
It is the right hour that international community must take serious notice of the Modi-led Hindu fundamentalism, as ‘Gyanvapi Mosque’ is turning into another Babri Mosque incident.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations