After Gyanvapi, BJP turns to Mathura's Shahi Idgah Masjid
This week’s events in Varanasi and Mathura have perked up the BJP and RSS leaderships, who are hoping that the Gyanvapi and Idgah pots will keep simmering till the next Lok Sabha polls in 2024, party sources said.
Just as the Sangh parivar was celebrating the alleged discovery of a “Shivalinga” on the Gyanvapi mosque’s premises and a Varanasi civil court’s order to seal the area, came another shot in its arm.
On Thursday, the Mathura district court admitted a lawsuit that seeks ownership of the land on which the Shahi Idgah Masjid stands, arguing the site is Krishna’s birthplace.
While similar petitions on both mosques have been pending in various courts for years, the latest developments have suddenly injected new life into the Hindutva campaign to “free Kashi and Mathura” as Ayodhya has been “freed”.
While the BJP leadership has not officially commented since both issues are sub judice and the Supreme Court is set to hear a Gyanvapi-related plea, individual RSS and BJP leaders have started testing the waters, mostly under the cover of anonymity.
“How can we remain silent when a Shivalinga has been found on the mosque premises?” a BJP leader said.
“We feel that like the Ayodhya movement (which had catapulted the BJP to power in the 1990s), this too will gain momentum and the courts would have to take cognisance of the larger public mood.”
An RSS functionary working with the BJP said the “Kashi (Varanasi) and Mathura” issues would “shape the political discourse of the coming years” like Ayodhya once did.
According to Sangh parivar outfits, the Gyanvapi and Idgah were built by demolishing parts of the original Kashi Vishwanath temple and Krishna Janmasthan temple, respectively, and should be removed from their current locations.
A slogan that kar sevaks had chanted after the 1992 Babri demolition — “Ayodhya toh bas jhanki hai, Mathura Kashi baki hai (Ayodhya is just the trailer, Mathura and Kashi are still pending)” — had begun to be heard again since the 2019 Supreme Court verdict handed the Ayodhya site to Hindus.
The BJP leadership has not joined the chorus since the 2019 verdict had flagged the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, which mandates status quo on religious structures as they were on August 15, 1947, except for the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. The apex court said the 1991 law was meant to protect India’s secular polity, which was a basic feature of the Constitution.
But this week’s occurrences in Varanasi and Mathura have emboldened some RSS-BJP leaders to openly disparage the 1991 law.
The BJP’s Madhya Pradesh minder, P. Muralidhar Rao, has said the 1991 Act’s continuation has become “impossible” after the discovery of a “Shivalinga” on a mosque’s premises. Former Uttar Pradesh minister Sidharth Nath Singh has asked whether the Congress enacted the 1991 law to appease a minority.
The BJP is to hold a two-day meeting of office-bearers in Jaipur over the weekend. Although party leaders claimed that Gyanvapi was not on the agenda, some said it could be unofficially discussed depending on what the apex court says during Friday’s hearing of the mosque management’s plea. The petition questions the survey of the premises (which has thrown up the “Shivalinga”) and cites the 1991 law.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address the Jaipur meeting virtually from Delhi.
“The BJP had officially opposed the 1991 Act, so there should be no problem in saying it should be repealed,” a BJP insider said.
“But then, the Supreme Court can well strike down any repeal of the Act, arguing it violates the spirit of the Constitution.”
For now, therefore, the BJP is happy to insist that the latest fillip to its Kashi-Mathura campaign has come from the “common people”.
“We are happy that with the intervention of common people and non-political organisations, historical facts are coming out. Let the people know everything and form an opinion,” said the RSS functionary working with the BJP.
The Mathura case has been filed by an advocate, Ranjana Agnihotri, whose website has pictures showing her meeting RSS leaders. The Gyanvapi petition was moved by five women from Varanasi and Jitendra Singh Visen, head of the Delhi-based Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh that has links with the parivar.
On Wednesday, speaking on the Gyanvapi controversy at an event in Delhi, RSS publicity-in-charge Sunil Ambedkar said: “The time has come to put historical facts in the right perspective before society.”
He added: “It’s true that India is assimilative. People talk about the Ganga-Jamuna culture (Hindu-Muslim syncretism). But it should later become one; it should become (just) Ganga. Only then can we walk together. I believe there is a responsibility to generate a public awakening.”