The spate of lawsuits being filed in courts countrywide by Hindu zealots and sangh parivar outfits questioning the titles of Muslim wakf properties on which religious mosques — some of them several centuries old — have been built, has the potential of inflaming religious passions and igniting rioting and mayhem which will destabilise the social order and derail the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery momentum.
It’s pertinent to bear in mind that for the first time in the history of post-independence India, GDP growth contracted by 6.6 percent in fiscal 2020-21. Although in 2021-22 it recovered to 8.7 percent, this recovery is on the low base of the previous year. Moreover because of Russia’s Ukraine war, which has sky-rocketed crude oil prices and driven up foodgrains cost, GDP growth in the current fiscal is unlikely to exceed 7.5 percent even as unemployment and inflation have crossed the 7 percent and 7.8 percent plimsoll lines.
Against this dismal backdrop, the last thing the country and economy need are communal violence and breakdown of law and order that’s certain to slow the economic recovery process. In Uttar Pradesh, a writ petition filed by five pious Hindu women demanding a judicial directive to the management of the vintage Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, to permit worship at a site within the mosque where a shivling, a sacred Hindu symbol, has been found, is being heard by a district court in the holy city. Not entirely coincidentally, several title suits filed by Hindu plaintiffs against mosque committees elsewhere claim mosques were built on ruins of Hindu temples and therefore, the right, title and interest of the land should revert to latter day Hindu worshippers.
However learned justices of the bench should bear in mind that in ancient times when people were less educated and more intolerant of other castes, creed and cultures, it was normative for triumphant victors, and conquerors to demolish temples and churches of the vanquished and build mosques and sectarian churches to signal battlefield victories and territorial conquest. Few historians dispute that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1618-1707) was an unapologetic religious bigot who destroyed numerous Hindu temples and constructed mosques on their foundations. The Places of Worship Act, 1991 which freezes the character of temples, mosques and churches at their status on August 15, 1947, should be the final word on this issue.
With elections looming in several states including Karnataka and Gujarat, the clear intent of the BJP ruling at the Centre and its affiliate sangh parivar outfits is to arouse hatred against the minority Muslim community for historical injustices rooted in the distant past, and consolidate the Hindu majority vote behind the BJP. It is dismaying that despite the clear directive of the Constitution to the judiciary to safeguard the secular and egalitarian character of democratic India, some judges and courts are pandering to the BJP leadership whose patent intent is to divide and rule India in perpetuity.