Varanasi: Gyanvapi Discoveries, The Places Of Worship Act, And What Next

Gyanvapi Discoveries, The Places Of Worship Act, And What Next

by Rajeev Srinivasan - Thursday, May 19, 2022 02:15 AM IST
Gyanvapi Discoveries, The Places Of Worship Act, And What NextDisputed structure in Varanasi (Pic Via Twitter)
  • There have already been fiery proclamations by the likes of Asaduddin Owaisi to the effect that “once a mosque, always a mosque till Judgment Day”.

There has been a slew of social media posts about the court-ordered survey of the Gyanvapi premises and what was discovered on Monday (16 May). As I write this, on Tuesday (17 May), there is a case being heard in the Supreme Court as to whether the survey should continue at all.

While all this legal hair-splitting continues, I wish to ask, like the kid in the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, what gaslighting and make-believe we are talking about. And how much longer will we continue with his charade?

There is not a shred of doubt about whether the Kashi Visvanath temple was demolished by Aurangzeb. First of all, there is an order (I believe it is called a firman) signed by Aurangzeb himself that directs the destruction of the temple. Nobody has questioned the authenticity of this document.

Second, there is physical evidence: the structure in question has some of its Hindu temple walls still standing, on top of which the Muslim domes have been erected. If you see the building or photographs of it, there is no question: it is a Muslim structure stuck atop a Hindu temple.

Third, there is the preserved local memory of the repeated destruction and reconstruction of the shrine, and the legend that the priest sacrificed himself by jumping into the well with the Shiva Lingam so that it would escape destruction by the invaders. This story is replicated in any number of other temples when attacked, and ancient idols have been found buried in several.

Fourth, there is the well-documented habit of the Abrahamic faiths from West Asia of demolishing the sacred spaces of those they conquered, and erecting their own shrines atop them, as the ultimate triumph of their god over the gods of the vanquished. Here are a few examples out of thousands:

  1. Mylapore Shiva temple destroyed and San Thome Basilica built on top

  2. Ayodhya Ram Mandir destroyed and Babur’s mosque built on top

  3. Aztec and Inca shrines in Latin America destroyed and churches built on top

  4. The Hagia Sophia in Turkey, a pre-Abrahamic shrine captured by Christians first, Muslims next, turned into a secular space, and now turned back into a mosque

  5. The Wailing Wall in Israel, where the Jews’ Second Temple was destroyed and the Al Aqsa mosque built on top

So there’s ample reason to believe this is Standard Operating Procedure, and it is done with the express intent of humiliating the conquered. Abrahamics do it to each other, too, as examples 4 and 5 above show. It is a corollary to the fact that Abrahamic religions believe in world conquest.

In other words, there’s nothing to be shocked at what the survey apparently unearthed. If you spent a little time thinking about it, this is precisely the behaviour that would have been expected, as well as the dissimulation: the petitions that are designed to keep the evidence hidden.

There is the 1991 Places of Worship Act that is quoted by all and sundry as an effort to maintain ‘communal harmony’. So far as I can tell, this Act, hurriedly put together to assuage liberal ‘guilt’ in the wake of the demolition of the Ayodhya structure in 1991, is a parallel to white liberal guilt over atrocities like slavery, apartheid, etc.

However, the woke sentiment that drove the cut-paste was completely illogical. Whites did do horrendous things to blacks, and therefore should be guilt-ridden. But in India, it was the Hindus who were the victims, and therefore had no reason to feel guilty. If anything, it should be the reverse, but based on past behaviour, that is unlikely.

Nevertheless, that Act exists (although I hear the BJP walked out of Parliament when it was put to vote, and since they have a majority now, they could well strike it down today if they feel it is a bad legislation). Therefore the courts have to rule based on the Act.

There is a complication: here is a provision from the Act that says it does not apply to “any place of worship that is… an ancient or historical monument or an archaeological site” etc. So does that apply to the Gyanvapi? Presumably, that is what the Justice Chandrachud bench will determine. A priori, of course, Gyanvapi is an “ancient or historical monument” and should be outside the purview of the Act.

(open in new tab to enlarge)
(open in new tab to enlarge)

Doubtless, the courts will choose an interpretation that is in keeping with their precedents; and it is a fair bet that the SC will strike down the lower court’s order to survey the Gyanvapi.

The question is: what then? Especially now that it is said (although not officially confirmed) that the original jyotirlinga has been retrieved from the well?

It has long been argued that Hindus, even though they are painfully aware that tens of thousands of temples have been destroyed, mutilated etc., as part of the above SOP, would be satisfied with the release of three of their holiest shrines: Ayodhya Ram Mandir, Kashi Visvanath, and Mathura Krishna Janmasthan.

What is happening, though, is an epic dilemma suited to the Mahabharatha: will the secularist ecosystem allow that to happen, or will they encourage Muslim fundamentalists to dig in their heels? There have already been fiery proclamations by the likes of Asaduddin Owaisi to the effect that “once a mosque, always a mosque till Judgment Day”.

In the Mahabharata, as you doubtless remember, the Pandavas asked first for half the kingdom. Later they were willing to settle for as few as five villages. But the obdurate Kauravas were unwilling to compromise even on that, and this led to the disastrous war.

We have seen earlier how leftist pseudo-historians created problems. The Muslims were willing to relinquish the disused Babri structure, as it had no religious importance to them, whereas it was of great importance to Hindus. The leftists convinced Muslims that they could win them the case; we know what happened: the pulling down of the structure; riots, death and destruction.

Chances are that continued intransigence on the part of the secularists/leftists and their encouragement of the most obscurantist Muslims will lead to hardening on the part of Hindus: instead of being satisfied with the three major temples, they will start demanding that all other temples also be released from occupation and desecration.

In that case, the BJP has no choice other than to overturn the Places of Worship Act. Whether they want to do that is a good question; what the consequences will be is another good question. But the fact is that the Gyanvapi discoveries will force some hard choices.

Also Read: A Gesture For Peace: Why Muslim Leadership Should Hand Over 'Kashi' And 'Mathura'

Rajeev Srinivasan focuses on strategy and innovation, which he worked on at Bell Labs and in Silicon Valley. He has taught innovation at several IIMs. An IIT Madras and Stanford Business School grad, he has also been a conservative columnist for twenty years.

Join our Telegram channel - no spam or links, only crisp analysis.
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.