UP: After Gyanvapi, Mathura Court Orders Shahi Idgah Survey; ‘Violation' of Places of Worship Act, Say Activists
Lucknow: Amid the row over discovery of a "Shivling" inside the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, a civil court in Mathura has ordered a survey of the Shahi Idgah Masjid and sought a report on the same by January 20, in one of the petitions related to the Shahi Idgah mosque-Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple dispute.
Civil Judge (Senior Division) Sonika Verma passed the order earlier this week on a civil suit filed by Hindu Sena president Vishnu Gupta and vice president Surjit Yadav. The suit was filed on December 8 this year, and sought possession of the site at which the mosque stands and the removal of the Shahi Idgah mosque.
The Mathura court has now directed the Court Amin (a term used to refer to a revenue department official) to visit the disputed premises and conduct a survey of the area. The court officers have been asked to submit a report with site plans and maps before the court by January 20, 2023 when the petition will be taken up next.
The Hindu Sena chief’s suit claimed that the mosque was allegedly built on the site where Lord Krishna was purportedly born and sought that the agreement between the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh and the Shahi Idgah Masjid Committee in 1968 be cancelled, calling it illegal.
The argument presented is that the temple trust did not have the power to act against the interest of the people belonging to the faith and against the interest of the deity.
This is one of over a dozen petitions pending in the civil courts of Mathura with regards to the Shahi Idgah-Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute.
The order comes in the backdrop of Varanasi courts deciding on more than occasion that the Hindu plaintiffs’ suit in the Gyanvapi dispute was maintainable.
Both the Gyanvapi mosque and the Shahi Idgah Mosque, fall under the purview of The Places of Worship Act, 1991, but now they are under litigation.
‘Blatant Violation’ of Act
Social activists, academicians and Left leaders NewsClick spoke with claimed that this was totally against the Places of Worship (special provisions Act) 1991.
Roop Rekha Verma, former Lucknow University vice-chancellor, who has been fighting for inequalities of caste, gender and religion on the streets, told NewsClick: "Persons like me, who wish to cherish a composite culture, plurality, peace and love in India are deeply disturbed by court rulings allowing surveys of the premises of mosques and temples in Varanasi and Mathura despite there being a law, the Places of Worship Act, enacted in 1991. This law debars raising controversies over a mosque or temple existing before 1947. The courts have disappointed us by interpreting the law in a very literal sense, damaging its real spirit. This opens up the pandora box of controversies which is dangerous to peace and progress of the country."
The Mathura dispute involves ownership of 13.37 acres, which the petitioners claim belongs to Lord Shri Krishna Virajman and also challenged the validity of a 1968 compromise agreement between Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and the Trust Masjid Idgah.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former MP, Subhashini Ali, believes the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is “fuelling” communal issues such as the row over the Gyanvapi- Shahi Idgah mosque with an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
"After Babri, these days, it looks like the BJP has taken up the agenda of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque and now Shahi Idgah mosque… the reason they do not have anything to show ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls except the mandir-masjid issue. They have confidence that the way they used Ram Janmabhoomi as fodder to come to power, they can retain the same in upcoming elections," she told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, the counsel for Shahi Masjid Idgah said they would file their objection on January 20 to the district court order on the submission of a survey report of Idgah. He alleged that the petitioners had “misled” the court and attained the order without proving the need and urgency for survey to be undertaken.
"The decision has been taken without issuing notice to us, which will not be accepted at all. We have not been served any summons in the case, thus we have not even appeared in the case and came to know about such an order for a survey of the mosque premises from other sources other than the court procedure,” Ahmed told NewsClick. "The courts have closed for the winter vacation. On opening of the court in the first week of January, we will file our objections against any survey as ordered by court,” he added.
The suit is one of the many pleas demanding the removal of the 17th century Shahi Idgah Masjid from the Katra Keshav Dev temple complex. The "compromise" between Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and Shahi Masjid Idgah made in 1968 was also challenged in the suit, according to lawyers.
Ramon Magsaysay award recipient and social activist Sandeep Pandey told NewsClick: "It is interesting that people associated with Hindutva ideology who are against redressal of caste discrimination by opposing caste-based reservation want the historical religious wrong undone by looking for signs of a temple in mosque after mosque. It is unfortunate that instead of addressing basic problems faced by common people like illiteracy, poverty, malnourishment, unemployment, inflation, a section of the population supported by the ruling Hindutva ideology wants to dig into unnecessary religious controversies with the objective of communal mobilisation. These regressive forces are taking the country backward and are doing long term harm to the progress of society."
Some legal experts also believe that the district court’s judgement was not correct.
"When there is a law saying certain things have to be put to an end, its objectives have to be considered,” argued Lucknow-based advocate on record Maruf Hashmi.
"There has been uninterrupted offering of namaz in the Shahi Idgah premises. Anything done contrary to uninterrupted mosque activities amounts to changing the nature of the place of worship," he told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, the communally sensitive Mathura city remains tense days after the Mathura court ordered a Gyanvapi Masjid-like survey of Shahi Idgah mosque. Following the announcement, security has been stepped up. Both Hindu and Muslim communities, especially business and secular minded people, said that the atmosphere of the country should not be spoiled over a temple or a mosque.
Mathura-based political observer Pervez Ahmad told NewsClick, "People from both the communities are upset with the order. They think it will not only be loss-making business for the city after security forces land in the city but also destroy the social fabric of the country further. Locals said that the ruling government is unnecessary digging up this issue to gain political mileage ahead of upcoming elections."
Several citizens of Mathura have said they are united and have called for keeping calm and protecting the original bonhomie of the city.
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