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‘Places of Worship Act not engraved in stone, need to review it’


Santosh Kumar PathakThe controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi continues to deepen after the survey report became public. While the Hindu side claims to have found a Shivling there, the Muslim side has called it a fountain. They have also cited the Places of Worship Act, 1991. It is not only the Gyanvapi in Varanasi, but the Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Masjid in Mathura case has also been admitted by the court for debate.While the construction work of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya is going on in full swing, enabled by the earlier Supreme Court verdict, the cases of Kashi and Mathura have also reached the court’s doorstep. Both sides are engaged in a war of words claiming ownership of the land. The writer spoke to Vishwa Hindu Parishad International Working president and senior advocate Alok Kumar on the issue. Following are the excerpts of the conversation: Q: Both the parties have their own claims regarding Gyanvapi survey. The Hindu side is calling it a Shivling, while the Muslim side calls it a fountain. What is your opinion on these claims? A: We believe it is a Shivling and not a fountain. It is one of the original Jyotirlinga. It must have been worshipped after ‘pran pratishtha’. I believe that since it is a Shivling, there must be a temple as there cannot be Shivling in a mosque. After a mosque was constructed there, no Shivling could have come from outside, so it is certain that Shivling has been there since ancient times. The Shivling was there even at the time of country’s Independence, so the Places of Worship Act, 1991 does not apply to it. Hindus must be given the right to worship in the entire complex. Q: So, will the VHP be satisfied only by getting the right to worship at the place of Shivling? A: This case has not been filed by the VHP. But as far as the Places of Worship Act is concerned, this was made in haste. There was no discussion nor was it sent to the Select Committee of Parliament. At that time the BJP strongly opposed this Bill. The most important thing is that the legality of this law has also been challenged in the Supreme Court, on which the court has also issued notice. Therefore, this law is not engraved in stone and its provisions should be reconsidered. Q: Who do you think should reconsider – the court or the Government? Are you demanding from the BJP Government to repeal the Act or change its provisions by bringing a new law? A: The court is doing it. It has given notice to the concerned parties and so far as our (VHP) stand is concerned, it will be decided in the next two important meetings. VHP’s Board of Trustees will meet at Kanchi at the end of this month. Next month, on June 11 and 12, a meeting of our Margdarshak Mandal will also be held in Haridwar. The VHP will decide its stand and also its future course of action regarding this. Q: Ashok Singhal, a veteran VHP leader, used to say that if the Muslims peacefully hand over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura to the Hindus, there will be no enmity and an atmosphere of love, unity and harmony will prevail in the country. Then Hindus will not claim any other monuments of this kind. Ayodhya was decided through the Supreme Court. Does VHP still have the same stand on Mathura and Kashi? A: See, Ram temple in Ayodhya is being built only through the court’s decision. If even today the Muslims will hand over Kashi and Mathura to the Hindus, this will create an atmosphere of goodwill. But if the same language is being spoken by the Muslim side as Owaisi and the Muslim Personal Law Board do, it will not be good for any of us. It is now clear that Kashi and Mathura are a matter of faith for the entire Hindu society. The VHP had earlier said that it will not consider these two issues till the Ram temple is resolved, but things are changing fast. We will discuss this in our upcoming meetings. Q: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in 2019 said that due to historical reasons, the Sangh was associated with the Ram Mandir movement only as an exception. The BJP in the Palampur session of 1989, said that it will support only Ram Janmabhoomi movement. However, senior Sangh leader Sunil Ambekar recently said on the Gyanvapi issue that facts cannot be hidden for long. Are BJP, Sangh and the VHP running a movement in tandem this time also? A: Sangh will take its own decision, BJP its own, but the sentiment of the whole country is the same that historical wrongs should be corrected. Q: How will the dispute be resolved? A: Both the matters are sub-judice and only the court can find the solution. This country has learned to respect the courts. People like Owaisi were roaring even at the time when Ramjanmabhoomi verdict came, but it did not have any impact. The Supreme Court’s decision was accepted by both Hindus and Muslims, there was neither violence nor riots. So when the court decides on Kashi and Mathura, everyone will accept it, I hope. Q: You mentioned the statement of Asaduddin Owaisi. You must have also heard the statements of Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leaders? A: Akhilesh Yadav has been rejected twice by the people of Uttar Pradesh. The Congress leader showed his ‘janeu’ (sacred thread), but doing it half-heartedly will not work. If you want to respect Hindutva, you have to do it all the time. Those who continue to disrespect the Hindus and their sentiments are fading away. The public is watching all this and will answer it again when the time comes. Q: Mehbooba Mufti has said that you should give the complete list in one go. A: She was sarcastic. All political parties have to say something or the other according to their party position. But the finding of Shivling there has answered several questions. Q: Will the VHP, like the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, run a mass movement for Kashi and Mathura? Will it hit the streets, put pressure on the government or fight a legal battle? A: I have already told you that VHP will take a decision after discussing all these issues in the Board of Trustees meeting to be held in Kanchi this month and on June 11 and 12 in Haridwar. (IANS)

From: sentinel

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