WASHINGTON D.C. – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, on Tuesday condemned the order of an Indian court to seal part of the historic Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. They saw the development as a potential to pave the way for the replay of Babri Masjid.
On Monday, a lawyer commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra, who was directed to survey the mosque — after a group of Hindu women filed a petition seeking permission to pray on the premises — submitted before the court that a ‘Shivling’ (an idol depicting the Hindu deity Shiva) was found in wazu khana (ablution tank) of the mosque.
The lawyers representing the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which manages the Gyanvapi Mosque, rejected the claim saying that the object is not a “shivling” but part of a fountain.
In a haste, the local court ordered the authorities to immediately seal a portion of the mosque, literally giving legal cover to the Hindu supremacist drives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and its militant affiliates.
These Hindu extremist groups have long been targeting and trying to ignite a dispute by manipulating history and falsely claiming that Mughals destroyed a temple to build not only the Gyanvapi mosque but countless other mosques around the country.
Apart from its explicit communal overtones, the latest court order completely violates the 1991 Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, which prohibits conversion of places of worship from one religion to another, except for the Babri Masjid dispute.
The Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 by a Hindu extremist mob who claimed — without evidence — that the Mughal-era mosque had been constructed on land holy to Hindus. The mob was made up of 150,000 people, led by Hindu supremacists belonging to the paramilitary RSS, the BJP, the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Bajrang Dal.
Shockingly, India’s Supreme Court awarded that land to the Hindus even while acknowledging that no evidence existed that the mosque had been built by demolishing a temple and also ruling that its demolition was a criminal act.
“Indian Americans are extremely alarmed by the latest court order, which could potentially pave the way for the replay of Babri Masjid. By playing into the hands of Hindu extremist groups and furthering their majoritarian agenda, this grave injustice by the court is yet another assault on India’s 200 million Muslims,” said Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC.
“Gyanvapi mosque has long been on the hit list of the Hindu rightwing, especially after the favorable judgment given by the Supreme Court in the Babri Masjid case in 2019. In all possibilities, the latest development could be used to whip up the communal sentiments and further the genocidal campaign against the Muslims of India,” said Syed Ali, President of IAMC.