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If Shivling is actually there, it changes everything — VHP on Kashi Gyanvapi mosque row

VHP central working president Alok Kumar says he believed there was a Shivling inside Gyanvapi mosque, but added that he will wait for a decision from the court.

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New Delhi: Provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, are “not cast in stone” and Parliament shouldn’t be prevented from reviewing it, Alok Kumar, the central working president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), has said.

Speaking to ThePrint, Kumar, who is also a lawyer, claimed that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was passed by Parliament in haste. 

Cleared just around the time the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid row was reaching its peak, the law freezes the religious character of religious places as they existed on 15 August 1947.

“There has not been a significant debate among various communities regarding this Act. The select committee of Parliament or some other committee had not heard it either. The BJP had opposed it,” he said. “It was sort of a knee-jerk reaction that this Act was passed.”

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which manages the Gyanvapi mosque, has invoked the law against a petition by five Hindu women who have asked for year-round access to the mosque premises to pray at the ‘Ma Shringar Gauri Sthal’, located along the outer wall of the mosque.

BJP national president J.P. Nadda has said that the Gyanvapi mosque dispute will be decided by courts, but individual leaders of the party have publicly made statements asking for a review of the 1991 Act

The VHP has claimed that the “structure” found in last month’s survey of the Gyanvapi mosque is one of 12 “jyotirlingas”, which are considered a representation of the Hindu God Shiva.

 

Kumar said he believed there was a ‘Shivling’ inside, but added that he will wait for a decision from the Varanasi district judge, who’s currently hearing the case.

There are two petitions in the Supreme Court currently challenging the Places of Worship Act — one was filed by BJP spokesperson and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and another by a Lucknow-based body of priests called the Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh.

Kumar also said the Places of Worship Act wouldn’t apply to the Gyanvapi mosque because the alleged ‘Shivling’, if found to be authentic, would have existed since before 15 August 1947. 


Also Read: Aibak, Akbar, Aurangzeb—the Gyanvapi divide & why a controversial mosque has a Sanskrit name


‘Changed circumstances’

Soon after the Supreme Court gave its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute in 2019, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said the organisation wouldn’t be involved in any more political movements or agitations.

He was answering a question about the other mosque sites — Gyanvapi and Shahi Idgah in Mathura, which Hindus claim as Krishna Janmabhoomi, or Hindu God Krishna’s birthplace — that Hindutva outfits claim. 

“Mohan Bhagwatji had said that the Sangh had taken up the agenda of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and it won’t take up anything else [but would] rather focus on its core agenda,” Kumar said.

However, he added that the circumstances have changed since then — particularly since the purported discovery of a ‘Shivling in the wazukhana (the area where the faithful wash themselves before entering the shrine) of the mosque.

“Ayodhya’s journey was our journey, we initiated it, led it and we achieved it. Kashi’s fight is being fought by the entire Hindu community. We had in fact stated that till the time Lord Rama is not [placed] at his birthplace, we won’t worry about Kashi and Mathura,” he said.  “If the ‘Shivling’ is actually there, then that changes circumstances,” said Kumar. 

“At one point, the sants (sages) did say that if Muslims return Ayodhya, Mathura, and Kashi to Hindus with love, then they will persuade the entire Hindu community to not ask for any new place [of worship]. However, this did not happen,” he said.

“My heart and mind says it’s a ‘Shivling’ and even as an advocate after analysing the documents I see it as a ‘Shivling’,” he said. “[But] as a democracy we must retain our faith in the democratic procedures and wait for their decision.”

‘No breach of 1991 law’

According to Kumar, the Places of Worship Act, 1991, is not applicable to the Gyanvapi-Kashi dispute because “the law is not applicable to those cases where a court has already given a verdict before the legislation got enforced”.

He said litigation related to the site took place during the pre-Independence era, when a plaintiff approached the courts seeking a judicial order to declare the Gyanvapi mosque area wakf property.

However, this plea was dismissed by both the lower court and the Allahabad High Court, he said.

As a result, he added, the Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath dispute falls in the exception category of the 1991 law.

“The court is still hearing pleas in relation to the Places of Worship Act, 1991. The Muslims have presented their case, while the Hindus are yet to argue,” he said. “First, Deen Mohammad had lost his case in the lower court as well as the high court for claiming the land under the wakf board.”

“The court had clearly laid out that this entire land can not be deemed to be under the wakf. Trial court found that a temple was demolished for the construction of the mosque. The high court had also mentioned this in their judgment,” he said.

The 1991 Act, he added, “states that any decision made prior to the promulgation of this Act, [it] will not apply”.

“The structure and pillars on which the mosque is built is that of an original temple with all their motifs of lotus and swastikas, which naturally means that it was about 100 years old when Aurangzeb demolished it,” Kumar said.

The Act also said that the 1991 law won’t apply to a structure governed by any other law, he added. 

“Kashi Vishwanath has its own Act [The Uttar Pradesh Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983]. And then [there’s the fact that] the place where the ‘Shivling’ is located can’t be a mosque,” he said. 

“The possibility of the ‘Shivling’ being placed surreptitiously after 1947 doesn’t arise. Therefore, if it’s proved to be a ‘Shivling’, it existed at that site from before 15 August 1947. And to that extent that portion was not a mosque in 1947. That has to come back to the Hindus because that area was a Shiv Mandir.” 

Kumar said the VHP’s ‘Margdarshak Mandal’ — a panel comprising Hindu saints and priests from the organisation — will meet in Haridwar in June to discuss several issues, including the sites in Kashi and Mathura.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)


Also Read: Order VII, Rule 11 — Code of civil procedure that will decide if Gyanvapi plea even stands  


 

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