The Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque issue was waiting to explode into a major incident. And now it has. Long believed to be a temple of Lord Shiva that Mirza Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad, popularly known as Aurangzeb, reduced to rubble before erecting a mosque in a bid to establish the supremacy of Islam, the Gyanvapi Masjid is back into focus after a Varanasi court-ordered survey reportedly revealed a ‘shivling’ there.
Following the survey, many remnants of the ancient Hindu temple have reportedly surfaced. It is no secret that this temple was destroyed on the orders of Aurangzeb and a mosque was built over the ruins. The Hindu society has been silently and peacefully agitating for the return of the temple. Even after the findings of the survey, there is a feeling of joy and no riots.
On the other hand, as has been widely publicised, the Hindu society experiences a sense of resentment and bitterness but has been calm so far, not reacting to the extreme provocations. A number of vulgar and highly objectionable posts have appeared on social media, some of them by people in responsible positions in academia, media and social life, mocking the survey findings by putting up images of shivling-lookalike structures.
It is unlikely that the resentment and restraint will last longer. The simmering anger among a large section of the Hindu society may erupt into a violent reaction. During the Ayodhya movement, one of the slogans was ‘teen nahi toh teen hazar’, signifying the demand for three shrines — Ayodhya, Mathura, and Kashi — or else (Hindus) will wrest back three thousand (temples) believed to have been demolished and replaced by mosques.
Stop the provocation
When angry and awakened Hindu groups get into an organised show of strength, even the police and paramilitary forces withdraw or are rendered ineffective. Saner elements among the Hindus would never want such a situation to develop and the political parties and the governments would not want to entertain such a situation nor are they prepared for such an eventuality. But the fact that Hindus’ resolve to endure historical injustice is under severe strain is very evident. The recent violence during Hanuman Jayanti processions clearly indicates that. This can result in an irretrievably dangerous situation at a time when the country’s priority should be economic recovery and prosperity in a positive and peaceful atmosphere.
Sometime in 2022, thirty years after the Ayodhya incident in 1992, one would not like to witness a repeat of those tumultuous days. The claim of the Hindu society is logical and based on historical facts. Ayodhya has underlined the bitter truth that courts and law enforcement agencies cannot settle issues of faith. The Kashi and Mathura temples should be freed of the mosques built by tyrants with an iconoclastic determination to subjugate the Hindus. Modern democracy, secularism and tolerance or rather respect for religious pluralism should prevail over religious intolerance and bigotries of the past.
Independence restored many of the basic human rights and guaranteed a level-playing field, freedom of religion and faith. But the injustice of the past is yet to be undone. Restoring the dignity of these three temples and handing them over back to the Hindus free of encumbrances and with honour and dignity will pave the way for reconciliation and peace between the two communities. Let the governments, courts and the Muslim leadership not wait for an accident that seems to be in the making in Kashi and Mathura.
The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. He tweets @seshadrichari. Views are personal.