The recent judgement of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi has been criticised by several Muslim leaders and a self-styled secularist as one based on faith and not facts. To insist on facts, when it comes to religion, is a contradiction in terms. That Virgin Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ is a belief inspired by faith and we respect it. Similarly, we do not question that Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the Dome of Rock.
The short-sightedness of the Muslim institutions wanting to appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court’s recent judgement on Ram Janmabhoomi is obvious. In contrast, recall the vision of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, the distinguished Premier of undivided Punjab: The Muslim League had sponsored the Punjab Muslim Mosques Protection Bill of 1938. The intention was primarily to secure the restoration of the Shaheed Ganj mosque, which was being used as a gurudwara.
As stated by Professor Coupland, the Bill was expected to create a grave political crisis for Sir Sikander’s Unionist Party. However, he still stood firm against the Bill and stated openly in the Punjab Assembly that the enactment of the legislation would provoke a retaliatory action in other provinces in respect of the numerous non-Muslim places of worship, which had passed into Muslim hands and had become sites of important Muslim holy places such as, the Dargah at Ajmer or the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque near Qutb Minar.
Significantly, the Council of the Muslim League approved of Sir Sikander’s contention and the Punjab Governor accordingly, did not permit the Bill to be introduced. That left Barkat Ali, the sponsor of the Bill, disappointed. The incident is quoted from Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan by Mr SM Ikram.
As a Hindu, I welcome the insistence on facts. I could go to the extent of offering the Muslims the Babri masjid back provided their leaders agree to give back all the places of worship, which were proven mandirs and were converted into masjids by invaders or Muslim rulers.
I have seen and photographed several mosques whose walls carry integral carvings of Lord Ganesh. The Quwwat-ul-Islam in Delhi and the Adina Mosque near Malda in West Bengal are two such examples. The Jama Masjid in Vidisha near Bhopal is a veritable museum of Hindu idols. The Rudra Mahalaya Complex at Siddhpur in Gujarat with its 11 temples used as Jami Masjid is another interesting example. From within the precincts of the mosque, Hindu idols were excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1979, but were buried back at the insistence of Muslim leaders. This incidence was reported by the Fourth National Minorities Commission Report, 1983. According to Alexander Cunningham, the legendary founder of ASI, it was the resplendent kingdom of Kannauj, which was later destroyed by Muhammad Ghori in 12th century.
In his Mathura : A District Memoir, FS Growse has recorded his exhaustive survey of Brajbhoomi. He was so overwhelmed by the vandalism that he visited the area repeatedly and recorded it in detail. To quote: “Thanks to Muhammadan intolerance, there is not a single building of any antiquity either in Mathura or, its environs. Its most famous temple — that dedicated to Kesava Deva (Krishna) — was destroyed in 1669, the eleventh year of the reign of Aurangzeb or Alamgir. The mosque (idgah) erected on its ruins is a building of little architectural value.”
Over two centuries after the desecration, Growse felt that “of all the sacred places in India, none enjoys a greater popularity than the capital of Braj, the holy city of Mathura. For nine months in the year, festival follows upon festival in rapid succession and the ghats and temples are daily thronged with new troops of way worn pilgrims”.
Today, Balkrishna is worshipped in a little room, which appears like a servant quarter attached to the back of the idgah. Definitely, any visitor, whether a devotee or otherwise, would feel pathetic.
The birthplace of Krishna was vandalised repeatedly. It started with Mahmud of Ghazni in 1017 and went on till Aurangzeb’s rule in 17th century. Historian Sri Ram Sharma in his The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, first published in 1940, wrote: “Then came the turn of the temple of Keshav Rai at Mathura built at a cost of `33,00,000 by Rao Bir Singh Bundela during the reign of Jahangir. It had excited the envy of many Muslims who, however, had not Aurangzeb’s power. It had been built after the style of the famous temple at Bindraban which Man Singh had built at a cost of `5,00,000. But Bir Singh had improved upon his model and spent more than six times as much as Man Singh had lavished on his shrine at Bindraban. It had become a centre of pilgrimage for the whole of India. The idols, studded with precious stones and adorned with gold work, were all taken to Agra and there buried under the steps of Jahanara’s mosque. The temple was levelled to the ground and a mosque was ordered to be built on the site to mark the acquisition of religious merit by the emperor.” Historian Sharma has relied on Maasiri-i-Alamgiri.
The Russians at the end of their conquest of Warsaw had built an Orthodox church, which stood for a hundred years until World War I. It was demolished after the Polish takeover. At the same site, the Poles rebuilt their Catholic church. The incident was described by Sir Arnold Toynbee in the first Azad Memorial lecture delivered in Delhi. He then went on to comment on the irony of independent India tolerating the idgah over Krishna Janmabhoomi and the two tall mosques built on the ghats of Benares.
Ours being a peaceful society, Indians should avoid desecration. A fair and square exchange of the Babri edifice for all the mandirs turned into masjids, which authentic records prove, should be acceptable to all.
Prafull Goradia || Daily Pioneer, New Delhi, India.