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Shahi Idgah vs Krishna Temple: Who is breaching peace in Mathura?

Shahi Idgah vs Krishna Temple: Who is breaching peace in Mathura?

Despite the right wing organizations trying to whip up media frenzy over the control of Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura, which lies adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple there, the mosque management is determined to not let the controversy vitiate the atmosphere there. In fact, the mosque committee is trying its best to keep the temple and the mosque out of any litigation and is confident that like previous suits of similar nature, the present one, which has sought to take control over the land on which the mosque stands, would be dismissed.

“Such suits are based on factually incorrect submissions in the court. The judge in this case was not aware of the background of this case, hence ordered the amin (revenue official) survey. But when we present our case and place the facts before the court, we are sure even this suit will be dismissed because the person who has filed the suit has no locus standi to do so,” says the Shahi Idgah mosque committee secretary Tanveer Ahmad, who is also the counsel for the mosque in the Mathura court.

It may be recalled that on December 24, 2022, a Mathura district civil court ordered a survey of the Shahi Idgah Mosque which lies adjacent to the Krishnajanmabhoomi temple in Mathura, paving the way for prolonged and bitter litigation and hyped up religious frenzy. A similar survey at Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi last year has resulted in right wing organizations demanding the right to worship at the so-called shivalinga located inside the mosque complex. This shivalinga, which Muslims claimed was a fountain, was used for vaju by them before offering prayer. Now this lies locked behind heavy security till its real identity is ascertained, as per Supreme Court orders.

It is common knowledge that the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura have been on the BJP’s agenda for years. They have always claimed that “ Ayodhya to bas jhaanki hai, kashi Mathura baaki hai.”

Once the clamour over Kashi subsided, Mathura has been pitch forked to the fore. On a civil suit, which was filed by Hindu Sena president Vishnu Gupta and vice president Surjit Yadav on December 8, 2022, the Mathura civil court (senior division), presided over by judge Sonika Verma, issued orders on December 24 , 2022, that a survey by amin be conducted and report submitted to the court for its next hearing on January 20, 2023. The survey report, the order specified, should include the site plan and map of the 13.37 acre area on which the Shahi Idgah mosque stood. The petitioners had demanded that control of this land be handed over to Hindus since the mosque stood on a land which was owned by the presiding deity , in this case, Lord Krishna, hence the mosque was an encroachment on this land.

According to the petitioners, the mosque was illegally built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after razing a temple which was built at the spot where Lord Krishna was born. The petitioners also claimed that the agreement which is in place in Mathura at the moment since 1968, allowing both Hindus and Muslims to offer prayers at their respective places of worship, was illegal” because the Krishnajanmabhoomi Sansthan, which entered into an agreement with the Shahi Idgah Masjid Intazamia Committee, was not the owner of this land, it was merely a trustee and had only powers to manage the temple affairs, not barter the temple land because it was not the legal owner.

“The land in question where the mosque stands belongs to Lord Krishna since 1815 when it was bought by the king of Benares from the British government which had auctioned it. We have the ownership papers to this effect which we have submitted to the court. The temple trust has only powers to manage the temple affairs, it is not the owner of this land so it has no power to enter into any agreement with anybody bartering our land. Hence the 1968 agreement where Muslims were given the right to offer namaz at the structure there is illegal,” says the Hindu Sena chief Vishnu Gupta, who is the main petitioner in this case.

The mosque committee, however is dismissive of this latest suit, saying at least 25 such suits have been filed by “ outsiders” in this case in the past and summarily dismissed by the court. “In this suit too, the judge passed the routine order of getting a amin survey done, as is the case in any land related suit. Maybe the judge was not aware of the background. Once we present the true facts, this suit too will be dismissed, ” says Tanveer Ahmad. According to him, the plaintiff has no locus standi to file this suit because he is neither the owner of this land, nor has any other stake. “We are going to challenge the maintainability of this suit on January 20, 2023, when the matter would come up for hearing,” he told this writer over phone from Mathura. But he is firm on one thing: this issue will not be allowed to be exploited by fringe elements to vitiate the communal harmony in Mathura.

“Mathura is a city where our Hindu brothers hug us during Id Milan, Muslims organize Prasad bhandaras during janmashtami celebration, where Salma bibi stitches the costume for Radha Rani. The local population here is like one family and we will not allow the outside elements to take advantage of any dispute,” he says.

But does the Central Government want this comraderi between the communities to prevail, or it has other designs?

What is disconcerting is the fact that not only fringe elements, even mainstream BJP netas have started harping on the mandir issue as the count down to 2024 begins. It seems, the BJP is getting back to hyped up religious frenzy, veering round to the mandir-masjid issues, throwing the promise of achhe din, of crores of jobs every year, of sabka saath sabka vikas and sabka vishwas, out of the window. It is no small matter that Amit Shah announced recently in Tripura that Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will be ready in January 2024. Looks like its back to the basics for BJP once again.

What makes the Centre a suspect in the right wing organizations’ attempt to whip up frenzy is the fact it has failed to clarify its stand on the Places of Worship Act, 1991. It is disconcerting that the Central government is appearing to be a party to this sort of absurdity in Varanasi and Mathura as it has chosen to be a mute spectator over such cacophony even when there is this law in the country which mandates that the nature of any religious place as on August 15, 1947, cannot be altered. The law enacted by the Narasimha Rao government in 1991, made the Ram Janmabhoomi temple an exception because a fierce movement was then underway demanding control of the entire land on which the temple stood in Ayodhya. It was specifically to prevent any such movements arising in the future that the law was enacted. As long as this law is in place, it is not legally possible to alter the religious character of any place of worship in the country. It is thus intriguing that the Centre is choosing to look the other way when demands to get control over the Gyanvapi or Idgah mosque are being made by Hindutva organizations.

It is even more unfortunate that the government has not only kept quiet over statements outside, it has also kept mum over this issue in the Supreme Court for the last two years where the Places of Worship Act has been challenged for its constitutional validity. The Places of Worship Act was first challenged in June 2020 when a Lucknow based organization called Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh, along with advocate Ashwani Upadhyaya, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of this act. Since then, the apex court has issued many notices to the centre but till date the Centre has said nothing. At least on half a dozen occasions, the Solicitor General, appearing on behalf of the government said “it needed time for a comprehensive” reply on the issue.

As recently as on January 10, 2023, when the matter came up for hearing, the Solicitor General sought more time saying the Centre is “consulting” on the issue and the “process” is on, so some more time be granted. Now the Court has fixed the date for end of February, on which the SG said “we may file the affidavit before that.”

If the BJP government at the Centre had been categorical about its own stand on this issue, the needless court wrangling over the mandir-masjid issues could have been avoided and the resultant bitterness could have been thwarted. But does the government want these issues to be avoided? Maybe not. Hence it is deliberately letting the issue fester, to be exploited at a politically convenient time.

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TAGS:MathuraSupreme Court supervised casePlaces of Worship Act 1991SDhahi IdgahKrishna Janmabhoomi sansthanshiv linga claim
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