New Delhi: A Delhi University professor has been booked for an allegedly objectionable social media post on the claims of a ‘Shivling’ being found at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi.
Ratan Lal, an associate professor of history at the Hindu College, has been booked under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings).
In a statement Wednesday, DCP (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi said, “A complaint was received Tuesday night against Ratan Lal, professor of history at Hindu College, DU, regarding a deliberate and malicious post on Facebook that was intended to outrage religious feelings by insulting a religion/religious beliefs. A case under IPC sections 153-A/295-A has been registered at the Cyber Police Station, north district.”
Speaking to ThePrint, Lal, who belongs to the Dalit community, said, “Critique of religion has been a part of discourse since the time of Gautam Buddha to Ambedkar, from Periyar to Phule. I have not written anything wrong… if you look at the picture (of the Shivling) carefully it looks like points were marked on it and it was broken. Will pandits identify and declare a piece of relic historically important or will historians do that ?”
The professor also refused to take down his Facebook post, uploaded Tuesday, and said his remarks were “sarcastic”, and not intended to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments.
Regarding the FIR, Lal said, “There has been no official communication from the police yet.”
Lal, however, said he had received death threats by users online after his post went viral.
In another Facebook post Tuesday, the professor said he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, requesting for two armed bodyguards or a licence for an AK-56 rifle for his self-defence.
‘Lal often a voice of reason’
A former Delhi University student, Lal has been teaching at Delhi University for the last 25 years and joined the Hindu College in 2000.
He has a Master’s degree from Ramjas College. A Dalit activist, Lal also runs a social media channel called ‘Ambedkarnama’ where he makes socio-political commentary on various issues. Lal claimed to have raised funds via his channel to finance the education of two students.
Among his colleagues, Lal is known as an outspoken activist. A professor at Hindu College, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint, “Lal picks up important social or political issues and is often a voice of reason. He is also an active member of the teachers’ association.”
Another professor at the Hindu College, who didn’t want to be named either, added, “Given the current climate of intolerance and rigid Hinduism, he should perhaps not have made such a comment. It has unnecessarily embroiled him in a controversy now.”
Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi mosque complex dispute
The Gyanvapi mosque, which lies adjacent to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, has been a subject of controversy. Petitioners representing the Kashi Vishwanath Temple have requested that the mosque, built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, be declared to be standing on land belonging to Hindus. The mosque’s management committee, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, has opposed it.
The controversy first started in 1991 when some priests claimed that parts of the temple were demolished by Aurangzeb to build the mosque. The priests had also sought permission to worship inside the Gyanvapi complex, claiming idols of Hindu Gods were present there.
In April, a petition was filed by five Hindu women asking for year-long access to pray at a Hindu shrine behind the wall of the mosque complex. A survey and videography of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex was subsequently ordered by a Varanasi civil court.
The mosque committee had challenged this before the Allahabad High Court which dismissed the plea on 21 April. The committee had then approached the Supreme Court.
A Hindu petitioner in the case, Sohan Lal Arya, had recently claimed that a Shivling has been found at the mosque complex.