Muslim leaders denounce Gyanvapi ruling, claim ‘faith in judiciary wearing thin’

At probably the largest press conference of six prominent Muslim bodies in recent years, they also express ‘disappointment with various lower level courts for failing to uphold the Places of Worship Act’

Updated - February 03, 2024 02:10 am IST

Published - February 02, 2024 10:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Image used for representative purpose only

Image used for representative purpose only | Photo Credit: Reuters

There was no temple where Jama Masjid or Gyanvapi Masjid stands in Varanasi. This was stated at what was probably the largest press conference of six prominent Muslim bodies in recent years. The Muslim leaders also expressed “disappointment with various lower level courts for failing to uphold the Places of Worship Act”, and accused the Executive of testing the patience of the Muslim youth.

“There was no temple where the masjid stands today. Islam does not permit destruction of another place of worship to build a mosque,” said Khalid Saifullah Rehmani, president, All India Muslim Personal Law Board. “What we are seeing today is an attempt to destroy Hindu-Muslim relations in the name of temple-mosque. For centuries Hindu temples have stood here. They were not disturbed by Muslim rulers,” Mr. Rehmani said.

In a signed statement, the leaders expressed outrage over the abrupt initiation of pooja in a cellar of Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, marked by “the overnight breaking of iron grill and installation of idols, following a questionable judgment of the Varanasi District judge”. Giving voice to their deep regret and concern, Muslim leaders said here that the swift initiation of this action, despite the court granting a seven-day window for the administration to make necessary arrangements, had raised questions about an apparent collusion between the administration and the plaintiff, attempting to foreclose any effort by the Masjid Managing Committee to pursue remedies against the District Court’s order.

The leaders expressed apprehension that the Babri Masjid saga could be repeated the way things have unfolded in Varanasi in recent weeks. Arshad Madani, president, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, drew attention to the increasing number of petitions filed in various courts seeking change in the character of Muslim places of worship since the Babri Masjid verdict came in November 2019.

“The verdict emboldened certain forces to approach courts to convert mosques into temples. What we are seeing in Varanasi is not an isolated incident. There is a question around Eidgah in Mathura, another mosque in Ahmedabad, another in Sambhal, and Delhi’s Jama Masjid too. The speed with which these issues have been raised makes one feel that the courts have developed certain elasticity to facilitate the takeover of places of worship. However, let me remind that in the Babri Masjid case too, the Supreme Court clearly stated there was no evidence of a temple beneath the mosque. We accepted the judgment as we had all along reposed trust in the judiciary. The verdict has paved the way for claimants over other mosques. However, if the judiciary continues to choose faith over facts, it will be difficult to repose faith,” said Mr. Madani.

Malik Mohtasim Khan, vice-president, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind went a step further, and clearly stated that the community is “feeling suffocated” at the judiciary’s inability to uphold the Act of 1991, and “the speed of the administration and bureaucracy” in fulfilling the court’s directive. He was referring to the Varanasi district court’s permission to a priest’s family to start a pooja in the cellar of Gyanvapi Masjid. “The issue extends beyond Gyanvapi. This trend of unwarranted claims on various places of worship raises serious concerns. The continued silence on the Places of Worship Act by the Supreme Court has become a source of deep worry for the Muslim community,” Mr. Khan said, adding, “In a democratic system the courts serve as the last resort for justice. The recent comments of the honourable senior advocate Dushyant Dave about the judiciary becoming a ‘majoritarian judiciary’, and that the judiciary remains silent while several transgressions of law are taking place at the instance of the Executive are deeply concerning. If the courts appear biased it raises fundamental questions where justice can be found.”

Mr. Rehmani said the Muslim leadership has always advised the community to remain patient and have faith in the judiciary. “However, for how long,” he asked, even as all leaders expressed the apprehension that their faith in the judiciary was wearing thin.

The conference was addressed by senior leaders of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, and Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith Hind, besides renowned clerics.

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