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Masjid and Mandir: Helmsman Beware

Mere presence of Hindu idols or religious symbolic objects in some site does not necessarily mean that it had a temple

Masjid Mandir India

During the heyday of the Non-co-operation Movement led by Gandhijee,the firebrand Bengali rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote a poem where he held out a warning to the leaders. He was aware of rising Hindu-Muslim tensions and growing indiscipline among its ranks. The title and the first line of the poem is – “Beware helmsman!”, obviously addressing the leaders of the movement. I have a feeling, we may address the same appeal to the courts today, especially the higher judiciary.

There are hundreds of thousands of temples and mosques in the country, no shortage of places of worship for either community. But of late there is an aggressive movement to claim the right of Hindus to worship in Muslim mosques on the ground that these were once Hindu temples or sites of temples. So far for centuries there was no grievance about lack of places of worship for Hindus. Scores of generations must have found salvation without ever worshipping in the newly claimed sites of worship. Then why or how has it hindered Hindus today from gaining the same degree of merit if they don’t use these new holy sites?

Of course once the mania occurs as a widespread movement, the sick do not care to ask such questions and pause in their headlong march. Undesirable tensions rock society and wreck peace and unity so much needed for normal civilized life. Something of priceless value is lost beyond any hope of recovery. I believe it is for the courts to raise such questions loud and clear.


Now one hears of a court-appointed team surveying the site of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi. A water-proof camera was lowered into a well in its compound by the team and Lo and Behold! there was an ancient Shivling (Lingam) under the waters. According to press reports, the area was then and there sealed and now the report is before the court.

But on what ground the right of Muslims to pray in the mosque restricted on this discovery? It may be that in olden times there was a temple there. That by no means proves that it remained a frequented place of worship until willfully destroyed. In fact we saw in our childhood and youth many ruined and abandoned temples where no worship took place, and not only in Assam. Hence the mere presence of Hindu idols or religious symbolic objects in some site does not necessarily mean that it had a temple where people came to offer their prayers and devotions until the very end. I think such temples fell into disuse once the patrons, families of princes or noblemen, stopped supporting them.

Given the sly and devious character of some fringe elements in the movement it also remains a possibility that someone had lowered the Lingam into the well under cover of darkness.

How on earth will courts come to a decision? And on what? That Muslims are to be denied their right to worship there? Or that even if they retain that right the high decibel methods of Hindu worship these days, what with chanting of mantras and the clangor of bells, they may be disturbed regularly during their hours of prayer?

The badly flawed Ayodhya judgment which had placed faith above reason and evidence may be ——— though one hopes will not be —– cited in support of Hindu claims of priority in such matters. Neither can courts afford the convenient method of invoking existing laws in dealing with a new issue that has afterall been conjured by an ersatz deliberate and motivated movement.

[The writer, Hiren Gohain, is a political commentator.]

 

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