The Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya is due anytime before November 17 when the present Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, retires from his job.
The 40-day-long hearings have been peppered with provocative, even irresponsible statements by the ‘Hindutva’ side that have even claimed that ‘the Supreme Court is ours!’
Clearly buoyed by the presence of acquiescent regimes in both Delhi and Lucknow, “seers” have now declared that their next target would be the mosques at Kashi and Mathura. Making brazenly provocative statements to the effect that their next agenda would be to ”free” Kashi and Mathura, what they threaten is clear: the demolition of the Gyan Vapi and the Shahi Idgah at Mathura.
An extremist body affiliated to the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the All India Akhara Parishad (AIAP), an “apex body” of the politicised priests in the country, said on Thursday that it would launch a movement to get (read “demolish”) the mosques adjoining the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi and Shrikrishna Janambhoomi in Mathura once the Ram Temple was built!
Not only do they seem sure of the outcome of the recent Supreme Court legal dispute, but these statements reported by the Bengaluru-based Deccan Herald, suggest that more communal strife and targeting of minority religious institutions and persons is in store.
‘Like the Babri Masjid, temples were also demolished at Kashi and Mathura to build mosques….the mosques must be demolished,” AIAP president Mahant Narendra Giri reportedly said on Thursday.
There is more: Giri, who is clearly backed by the most powerful within sections of the Indian establishment, also reportedly said that there was a ”pro-Hindu” government in Uttar Pradesh as well as at the Centre and hence, there should not be any problem in achieving the twin objectives.
”Like Ram Temple, Kashi and Mathura too are revered by the Hindus worldwide…they belong to us and we will take them,” the mahant (religious head) said. Giri said that the Muslims should withdraw their claims on Kashi and Mathura also to “promote communal harmony.”
Interestingly the Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the main Muslim plaintiffs in the Ayodhya title suits, had, in its ”settlement proposal” to the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel, sought that the Hindus withdraw their claims on the Kashi and Mathura mosques as one of the pre-conditions for resolving the dispute through negotiations.
For the likes of Giri and his accomplices within the Uttar Pradesh assembly and Indian parliament, however, there is no such thing as compromise. He has therefore made it clear, once again, that, “Hindus” would, under no circumstances, withdraw their claim on Kashi and Mathura.
An extremist leader of the VHP and BJP, Vinay Katiyar had also said that Kashi and Mathura too belonged to the Hindus. The mosques in Varanasi and Mathura adjoin the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Shrikrishna Janambhoomi respectively.
In the tumultuous 1980s-1990s, the bloodthirsty slogan, “Ayodhya-Babri sirf jhaanki hai, Kashi-Mathura ab baaqi hai”, had rent the air, as saffron-clad mobs had claimed India’s public spaces and streets.
Politically, however, while the infiltration into both government and its institutions was marked then, it was far from complete. Today, with both the Union government in Delhi and the state government in Lucknow led not just by the RSS-BJP but streams within these that are more extreme even than the leadership from 27-30 years ago, these “threats” bear an even more evil portent.
It is safe then to predict that India will see more and more attacks on its minority religious institutions, accompanied by a crass intimidation on minorities lives and their very existence.
The dust from the demolition of the Babri Masjid has barely settled down. But, six months after the Ayodhya disaster, it is apparent that the Shahi Idgah adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple at Mathura will be the next target.
The BJP claims that Kashi and Mathura are not on its “agenda immediately”. But with VHP general secretary Ashok Singhal and RSS joint general secretary Rajendra Singh making no bones about the fact that Mathura is still very much on their agenda; it is just a question of time before the Hindutva forces strike again. As Singh declared: “What [L.K.] Advani has said is that they are not on their agenda immediately. But he has not said it will never be.”
And if the Ayodhya example is anything to go by, it may well be. After all, it took eight years after the VHP’s categorical call “for the removal of the three mosques built by the marauders at Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi” before the Babri Masjid was razed to the ground.
The BJP adopted a formal resolution only in June 1989 at its national executive meeting, five years after the first VHP call was given in April 1984.
Now, with the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust already laying claim to the four-and-a-half acre land next to the mosque to use as a ranga manch (variety hall) for religious and cultural functions organised by the trust and temple authorities, it may not be long before the Idgah at Mathura goes the Babri Masjid way.
Our magazine Communalism Combat began in 1993 as a response to the collapse of the constitutional rule of law order in December 1992-January 1993. Archival issues of the magazine are available at www.sabrang.com. As we tracked the violent turn in India’s politics, in May 2003, six months after the brute Gujarat 2002 genocidal pogrom, we had exclusively reported on a list of ‘targets’ of shrines and places of worship that were either linked to South Asia’s vibrant Sufi tradition and or Islamic way of worship.
Clearly the bloodthirsty soldiers of the Hindu Rashtra believe that violent ‘destruction’ and ‘assertion’ is the only way.
This list had been sourced and circulated from an email. A close scrutiny of this list today, 16 years after its circulation and when India’s political horizon has shrunk to narrow visions of nationhood, clearly suggests that calculated and provoked violent religious conflict is still on the cards.
The list is elaborate and leaves no state or Union Territory of India untouched by its pre-selection. Delhi, our capital, has 72 ‘targets’ of the Hindutva brigade that include 11 in ‘Indrapat and Dhilila’ (Mehrauli), nine in Begumpura including the historic mosque there, six in Nizaumuddin including the revered Durgah that has been also beautifully restored by the Aga Khan Trust, five in Shahjanabad, eight in Hauz Khas, six in Ramakrishnapuram, four in Malaviyanagar, four at Lodhi Gardens, three in Purana Quila, one in Wazairabad, four in South Extension and six others.
Telangana has not been spared, neither has Diu, the Union Territory. Gujarat, needless to say, has a long list. Bengal (beware a BJP government there) has over 120 ‘targeted shrines’, Assam has not been spared either. The list published in Communalism Combat only contained a “summary”; clearly there is more.
For the vanguard of the Hindu Rahstra, represented by the governments in power in New Delhi and dominating the politics of several Indian states in 2019, a brute and violent assertion on mosques and monuments from India’s famed Mughal period is crucial to manipulate history and a past that suits its construct of an upper caste, Brahminical, Hindutva nation.
Integral to this political scheme is also relegating vast sections of Indians – who belong to faiths and cultures that are not straitjacketed into this hegemonic definition – into second class citizens. While Buddhists, Christians, rationalists, secularists, and communists are the ‘enemies of this imagined Hindu nation’, Muslims hold special place as its most venomous target.
When M.S. Golwalkar penned We and Our Nationhood Defined in 1939 — and this was also five years after the first brute attack on Gandhi’s life — he took inspiration from both Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
Less than two decades later, when the flagbearers of the ‘Muslim Islamic nation’ successfully tore into India’s construct of a more composite nationhood — and India was violently partitioned — a festering wound remained.
Since 1925, when the RSS began its project to re-fashion Indian society and its notion of the state, it has come a long way and now, six years away from its centenary celebrations, we are being warned. Will this project to utterly undermine India’s republican and constitutional base and convert it into a majoritarian, theocratic state, succeed?
Let’s have a look at the RSS’s seminal texts on the imagined Hindutva state that they wish India to be. All these other affiliates, the VHP and body of priests are in some manner or otherwise connected to this parent idea and by association, its political goal.
The official website of the RSS used to have a version of the e-book, Bunch of Thoughts. Now the website exists but the archival section is clearly under some sort of bot surveillance. However, both books are widely available online for those willing to be ‘watched’ by the RSS’s eagle eye and its widespread physical network of bookshops and socio-political community outlets.
The second text, We or Our Nationhood Defined by M. S. Golwalkar (first edition brought out in 1939) has been orally disowned by some in the RSS-BJP, even if copies are freely available on the internet. It is not available on the official RSS website anymore.
We at Communalism Combat have an, exclusive xerox copy of an earlier, 1947 edition.
In an exhaustive piece authored in December, 2015, I closely examined the tenets of the dream Hindu Rashtra as envisaged in these official texts of the RSS.
What is crucial to remember is this re-cap from 2015:
RSS and BJP are anti-Constitution
The RSS and by ideological and organisational association, BJP that rules India today are fundamentally against the concept of Indian nation-hood, Indian citizenship as defined by the Constitution of India. At page 119 of the Bunch of Thoughts, the RSS’ sfoundational doctrine, the author has completely debunked the ‘absurdity of the concept of territorial nationalism’.
Golwalkar says, “They (we presume by this the RSS means the leaders in the Constituent Assembly) forgot that here was already a full-fledged ancient nation of the Hindus and the various communities which were living in the country were here either as guests, the Jews and Paris, or as invaders, the Muslim and Christians. They never faced the question how all such heterogeneous groups could be called as children of the soil merely because, by an accident, they happened to reside in a common territory under the rule of a common enemy. ”
RSS unashamed about its aim to overturn the constitutional mandate
“…We have been sufficiently fooled up till now by their exhortation that we Hindus, who are having a great philosophy of human brotherhood, catholicity of spirit and so on, should not narrow ourselves by the talk of Hindu Nationalism and all such ‘communal’, ‘medieval’ and ‘reactionary’ ideas! We must be able to see through the game and revert to the truth of our nationalism as an ancient fact and the Hindus being the national society of Bharat, so clearly restated by our revered founder when he decided the word ‘Rashtriya’ for our organisation.
We must once again stand up in our true and full stature and boldly assert that we shall elevate the Hindu National Life in Bharat to the peak of glory and honour which has been its birthright since hoary time. (Page 127, Bunch of Thoughts, M.S. Golwalkar)
As mosques and our syncretic culture become the most obvious targets of this political project, underlying this re-fashioning of the physical and cultural is a brutal, modern ethnic cleansing of the physical presence and equal rights of vast sections of Indians, especially Muslim, who live, even today in everyday apprehension.
The climate of fear and intimidation, first unleashed through communal violence turned genocidal pogroms now takes on a state-sanctioned character as projects like the selective review of citizenship rights becomes a stated political programme.
The threatened demolition of mosques and dargahs is only but always accompanied by violent attacks on people whose faith is the target; accompanied by the sword and threat of the National Register of Citizens (never forget terms like “termite” and “traitorous infiltrator” bandied around), the brazen attempt is out and out servile subjugation. And this, to a population already in theory relegated to a second class status.
This story was originally published in The Wire.
Teesta Setalvad is a civil rights activist, lawyer, and journalist, and runs Communalism Combat magazine.