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Will Gyan Vapi Repeat The History Of 1992 Dispute ?

The Gyan Vapi case pertains to a petition by five Hindu women who have asked a local court to allow daily prayers before idols on its outer walls and other "visible and invisible deities" within the old temple complex. The petitions in the Gyan Vapi mosque case follow a similar pattern we had witnessed in the Babri Masjid case. After an idol of the Hindu deity Ram was planted under the central dome of Babri Masjid in December 1949, a slew of suits and affidavits were filed by Hindu parties to claim a right over the land on which the mosque stood, as we can again see the rise of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and their mindset to create a "whole Hindutva country."

The following article talks in depth about how the case of Gyan Vapi is quite different from the Ayodhya case. Our country believes in the concept of secularism, and words like "Hindu Rashtra" or "Hindutva" clearly do not represent India's spirit of secularism. The Hindu side reported the case under Article 14.

Religious sentiments or Proper evidence which should be placed above?

The petition filed by the eight Hindu women can indeed be interpreted as an attempt to assert their right to pray within the Gyan Vapi mosque, potentially placing faith above legal considerations. Unlike in the Ram Janmbhoomi case, where the constitutional validity of the law wasn't challenged, this dispute seems to pivot on the emergence of a "shivling"-like structure during the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report.

Although there's debate over whether it's indeed a "shivling" or a "fountain," further carbon dating tests are deemed necessary for confirmation. In the 1950 Ayodhya dispute, Gopal Singh Visharad's plea for the government to allow prayers to Lord Rama reflects the broader contention over claiming rights to the deity's birthplace. Similarly, in the Varanasi dispute, the focus is on unhindered Hindu worship rights concerning deities located within the demolished temple's outer and inner walls. Notably, there isn't currently a demand for the mosque's removal or the reinstatement of the previous status quo ante.

Role of the 1991 places of worship act in the current dispute

Both parties in the house intensely debated the existence of the Places Of Worship Act 1991 at that time, Jaswant Singh who was at that time the MP from the BJP side argued that the issue of "Pilgrimages" which was included in the act is an issue reserved for state governments and "if places of worship are not places of pilgrimages, then what else are they. At that time the focus of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was more on the issue of the Babri masjid because it was more sentimental and emotionally connected the issue had been going on for a long time and sentiments of the Hindu side were connected to it, in the present case scenario the court should take their time and there should be a proper ASI survey of the site before coming to any conclusion.

Talking about the 1991 Prevention of Worship (special provisions) Act was passed during the first year of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in September 1991. The law prohibits the conversion of places of worship-like churches, mosques, and temples. Still, the law exempted the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri masjid dispute and it was done because it will act as a "watershed moment to heal the wounds of the past" Orders like those of Varanasi district court have now opened the fissures, and also provided legal argument to those hoping to rake up other such disputes across the country.

The most common name that comes to mind for this is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which has been spearheading the campaign to reclaim the mosque next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple Places of Worship Act 1991 is a significant piece of legislation that prohibits "conversion of any place of worship" (Section 3) and provides for "the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947" (Section 4). No person can "convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination"

Contention between Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Waqf Board

Despite assurances by the prime minister of India, the one thing that no one in this country wants after the 1992 Ayodhya dispute is chaos over a shrine or mosque but yet another Ayodhya now looms large over India. Soon after the ruling of the Varanasi district court the Vishwa Hindu Parishad immediately called it the 'Gyanvapi Mandir'. Section 3 of the Places of Worship Act, 1991, prohibits the conversion of any place of worship, whereas Section 4 mandates that the "religious character of a place of worship" as it existed on August 15, 1947, shall remain the same The VHP contends that the Act doesn't apply in the Gyanvapi case because the presence of the 'Shivling' confirms that "the bona fide religious character of the basic structure and the place was very much that of a temple in 1947".

Are these temple movements even reflective of India's culture? India is a country that is famous for its rich heritage and secularism But now a campaign called 'Reclaim Temple' has listed nearly 2,000 temples that were believed to have been destroyed to build Islamic monuments. Besides, several other right-wing groups have prepared lists of such Islamic structures across the country, including those at Lodhi Gardens in Delhi and Begum Masjid of Hyderabad.

It could be a legitimate scholarly documentation of the past, but it becomes an exercise to display political strength. The last few decades have stripped the gods of their philosophy and converted them into political warriors, and the temples into grounds for displaying numerical strength, a shrill slogan that obliterates the possibility of any individual redemption before the Lord. However, not all temple constructions reflect a wound.

While the VHP wants a quick decision, several members of the Sunni Central Waqf Board said We want to live in harmony and peacefully while protecting the monuments as they are," he said. "Nothing political about it, we are in the court and facing it legally Indian law bars the conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of places of worship as they existed at the time of independence.

Recent ruling of Varanasi district court

In 1950 Gopal Singh Visharad asked the government to offer worship to the idol of Lord Rama although in the Gyan Vapi dispute, there is still no record of the idol and the shivling claimed by the Hindu side is yet to be backed by any conclusive ASI report. Recently the court allowed to offer worship in the "vyasji ka tehkhana" but "vyasji ka tehkhana" is a place where the Vyas family used to live there previously, and the court ordered that only the Vyas family can perform the prayer rites.

The Supreme Court in the 2019 Ayodhya dispute talked about the Places of Worship Act 1991 and said that "the law speaks to our history and the future of the nation". The court made it both a legal and constitutional duty of the current and future governments to protect other places of worship in India so that an Ayodhya-like dispute does not arise again. The verdict tried to make the law watertight, and seal shut similar disputes that have been festering like old wounds. However, the district court of Varanasi held that the 1991 law does not apply to the Gyan Vapi suit because the plaintiffs just wanted the right to worship inside the mosque premises and weren't staking claim of its ownership.

Resolving the dispute with peace is the way forward

While the mosque's future is uncertain, the 1991 act itself also hangs in the balance because petitions challenging its constitutional validity are still pending in the Supreme Court. If there is an amicable resolution to the Gyan Vapi dispute through a negotiated settlement process there will be less polarization our nation will move forward strongly and there will be more peace all around. Surely both sides don't want to be the losing side in this settlement and it is not going to be easy, it is a legacy problem where both sides are not the main cause of the problem.

The court should aim for a 'win-win' solution or at least no loss for both sides even if either side is ready for settlement they would find it difficult, in order not to come across as the weaker side here is where responsible leadership from both the sides should come forward and try to talk to each other and both the parties. The Hindu side after the Ayodhya dispute should not feel that they are the stronger side, at the same time, the Muslim side should also try to mediate a way so that the peace of the country and the country wouldn't be facing countrywide chaos like in 1992 for Ayodhya dispute.

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