Gyanvapi Masjid
India Islamophobia

The movement to demolish the Gyanvapi Mosque will hurt India

The Gyanvapi Mosque, Varanasi
Gyanvapi Masjid, Varanasi which is at the centre of this controversy


The attempts to demolish the Gyanvapi mosque in India will hurt India. India is a country of many religions. However, Hindu right-wingers are targeting the Muslim community. The present developments in the case have surprised everyone. Hindutva activists want to demolish the mosque.

Gyanvapi Mosque in India- Its history

The Gyanvapi mosque is located in the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. It is adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb built this mosque. It was built in the 17th century. But the conflict around the mosque continues in the 21st century.

What many people forget is. This mosque is a part of India’s history. Therefore, demolishing the Ggyanvapi mosque is like attacking Indian history.

Now courts are involved in the mix. The government in India is silent. Instead, people are running to the courts in this matter. The dispute is about India’s history.

In 1991, certain people asked the trial court to give them permission to worship in the Gyanvapi mosque. Presently, the trial court in Varanasi has ordered a survey of the structure. Consequently, the Archaeological Survey of India will conduct this survey.

We need to remember one key fact. It’s all the doing of a section of Hindutva activists. They want to destroy the secular fabric of the country. They use these issues to hurt the Muslim community. Further, they have gained confidence after the Supreme Court judgement in the Babri Masjid case.

What is the Babri Masjid case?

Let us now consider the Babri Masjid case. The Babri Masjid is a mosque in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Some Hindus believe this mosque was built on holy ground. According to their beliefs, a Hindu god Rama was born at that spot.

However, in the 21st century, this claim is impossible to verify. The litigation around this issue took decades. However, it came to a shocking end in 2019. The Supreme Court ordered the Babri Masjid to be demolished. The idea behind this was a compromise. The court wanted to satisfy the Hindu community. But to the Muslim community, it was an injustice.

Also Read: Communalism and Economic Marginalisation of Muslims

But the Supreme Court’s said this case was an exception. So demolishing religious structures was not going to be the norm. That is not proving to be true.

Present proceedings around demolishing the Gyanvapi Mosque

The present litigation started because of a petition filed claiming the Gyanvapi mosque was an illegal construction. The plaintiff asked for a survey and removal of the Gyanvapi mosque. In 2021, the trial court directed a survey. An appeal was filed before the High Court in Allahabad.

However, the Allahabad High Court stayed in these proceedings. The court referred to legislation called the Places of Worship Act, 1991. This law protects places of worship. Moreover, it prohibits anyone from changing their religious character.  

This is where things get interesting. The Places of Worship Act is considered a vital part of India’s Constitution. But in 2021, the Supreme Court decided to examine if that legislation was valid. This is an affront to the core idea of secularism.

Why is the Gyanvapi Mosque significant?

The significance of this dispute arises from the history of the mosque. Muslim rulers ruled a large part of India at that time. At present, people from the right-wing want to erase or malign this history. They have a sense of victimhood. Further, they exploit this to push their demands.

In addition, right-wing Hindutva groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are pushing this campaign. They lead the attacks against the Babri Masjid. The Gyanvapi Masjid is their new battleground. Moreover, these groups have set their eyes on other mosques like the Idgah Masjid and the Taj Mahal.

This Gyanvapi controversy is nothing more than a smoke screen. India is facing issues like unemployment and rising inflation. People are unhappy with the government’s handling of the pandemic. The present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was elected on the plank of development. However, after almost 8 years in power, nothing has really changed.

These issues are being agitated in order to distract the public. In addition, elections in many states are due to take place soon. The country will go into a general election in 2024. So this becomes a great campaign tool. An issue like the demolition of the Gyanvapi mosque can help consolidate Hindu votes in India.

Why will this hurt India?

The government is however not looking at the cons of the agitation. It will hurt the country. Secularism is a founding principle of the country. But respect for all religions is also an important principle. How can the feelings of one religious group be discarded? India is a country for all its citizens. Not just Hindu citizens!

In addition, it does not send a good message to Muslims around the world. Muslim countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have trade links with India. They also co-operate on many issues. So it will hurt India’s relationship with the Muslim world.  Moreover, it tells the world that India is not a secular country. Or one that believes in religious harmony.

Also Read: Islam in India: Then and Now!

Conclusion  

The mala fides behind the present Gyanvapi stir are evident. It is not like Hindus don’t have a temple in that area. They have a temple adjacent to the Gyanvapi mosque. Is that not enough? Does India need to demolish the Gyanvapi mosque? The purpose of a temple or mosque is to pray to one’s creator. However, the way things are moving in India, that purpose seems lost.