New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India’s verdict on November 9, 2019, in the controversial Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi Land Title case has led to several questions on what the implications of this judgement would be on various other disputes concerning places of worship.
One such legal dispute involves the Baba Budangiri controversy in Karnataka, a state which is currently ruled by a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.
After the Ayodhya judgment, the BJP seems keen on refreshing the controversy over Baba Budangiri dargah, which is infamously called the Ayodhya of Karnataka and has also been used as a tool for communal polarisation by the party. Now, in the wake of the Ayodhya judgment, BJP leader and Karnataka Minister of Tourism C T Ravi recently said that the Yeddyurappa government would soon attempt an out-of-court solution to the decades-old controversy.
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The minister, as per Coastaldigest.com, is reported to have said that he would invite all stakeholders, including the dargah’s Shakadri family, along with documents from revenue and endowment departments, to find a lasting and amicable solution. The report said the minister articulated his party’s stand that Datta Peetha and Baba Budan dargah were at least 8 km apart, and a resolution based on material evidence could be achieved.
Ravi also reportedly said that the ongoing legal battle would be continued in case the talks fail.
The point to be noted here is that no consensus has been formed yet among the different stakeholders mentioned by the minister in the past. In fact, the BJP, along with the Sangh Parivar, has always held a position against any consensus.
Baba Budangiri is a small shrine in a cave on the Baba Budan Giri hill in the middle of the Sahyadri Western Ghats in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. The Hindus have historically been considering the cave as the final resting place of Sri Guru Dattatreya, who according to the Avadhuta tradition prominent in Karnataka, is an incarnation of the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
The Muslims observe it to be a site of the Sufi shrine of 11th century A.D, Dada Hayat, locally known as Baba Budan. The controversy began with the Karnataka government transferring the administration of the dargah from the Muzrai department to Waqf board in 1975. The BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were successful in communalising this transfer.
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In 1975, the then government had passed an order making it a Wakf property. This order was challenged by the then caretaker of the Dargah, Shah Khadri, and two Hindu litigants in the Supreme Court. In 1988, the Commissioner for Religious and Charitable Endowments in Karnataka ordered that status quo be maintained. In 2008, the Supreme Court had reiterated its earlier order; the judgment pronouncing that the shrine is revered equally by Hindus and Muslims, and ordered the status quo to be maintained.
In March 2018, following the orders of the Supreme Court, according to Bangalore Mirror, the state cabinet resolved that the shrine was the property of Religious Endowment Department and did not belong to the Wakf Board.
However, the Sangh Parivar and BJP continued to communalise the region in the name of Datta Jayanti every year. For example, the same C T Ravi who now wants an out-of-court settlement, in December 2017, had displayed some documents to the audience in the premises of the shrine and claimed that the records proved that the shrine was a Hindu place of worship. This had provoked the “devotees” present there who tried to damage the dome-like structures around the shrine.
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It may be recalled that over 200 organisations have come together under the banner of Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike (KKSV) to fight the communalisation of the state. Late activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was assassinated by right wing forces, was also part of the forum and the forum continues to fight for safeguarding the syncretic culture of Baba Budangiri.