Gyan Vapi to set new course for Indian politics
By Shivaji Sarkar
A chance test case for Shringar Gauri puja outside, the survey for it and the surprise discovery of Shivalinga supposedly the creator and destructor at the old temple of Lord Vishwanath or GyanVapi has charged the political scenario with a religious fervour possibly giving a boost to the preparation for 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Would it make the Congress effort at Udaipur futile and boost up the votaries of Hindutva for a new stretch of political success? It definitely would firm up the religious thrust of Indian politics. Varanasi is the city of Shiv. Adages are there that Shiv used to visit this city from his Himalayan home every year. None possibly expected that the Shiv would come out of a dirty ‘vaju’ tank in all his manifestation to energise his devotees.
It may be the beginning of a new judicial process that unravels the murky medieval Indian history marked by many demolitions of temples, atrocities and killings. The Gyanvapi can have impact in at least ten different places, where the medieval rulers had taken recourse to extreme brutality of converting religious structures by killing thousands. These are – Kashi Vishvanath-Gyan Vapi in the oldest living city of Varanasi; Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah – 5000-year-old; Rudra Mahalay in Patan, Gujarat; Bhojshala Saraswati Mandir – Kamal Maula mosque at Bhoshala in MP; Adinath Temple – Adina mosque at Pandua, West Bengal; Bhadra Kali Temple – Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; Vijay Temple – Bijamandal mosque, Vidisha, MP; 27 Hindu and Jain Temples – Quawwatal- ul- Islam Qutb Minar complex; Somnath and Ramjanmabhoomi Temple – now restored.
The Gyan Vapi re-ignites the issue that was supposed to have been settled with the judgment of the Ramjanmabhoomi temple by the Supreme Court. The five Supreme Court judges took note of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991 that laid down that all shrines will be preserved as inherited by independent India on 15 August 1947. The law made an exception for Ayodhya as it was already an ongoing dispute. Nothing else was deserving of an exception, nor was it legally or constitutionally possible, the judges wrote.
The quick scenario change in the Gyan Vapi incident may raise the question of the validity of the enactment of the Places of Worship law by the Narasimha Rao government. Sentiments are high not only in Varanasi but all over. Seemingly non-partisan people like PK Roy, former executive director, Airports Authority of India in Kolkata; Lalima Aneja Dang, a senior radio producer; Priyadarshi Dutt, author, commentator; former editor of Doordashan Prabhat Dabral are all charged and advising that it is prudent to settle and not react on this emotive issue. Former Vice Chancellor of Nagpur University SN Pathan and another Vice Chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed have appealed to the minorities to correct the steps and maintain harmony. Left leaning Dabral says minorities must rethink despots like Aurangzeb and instead have consideration for the nation and sort it out.
The one common question the non-political elite ask is how could someone treat the revered Shivlinga with such contempt that they established the wash-tank above that. It is difficult to say that it would have the same manifestation and feelings until the elections or not. The sentiments expressed speak volumes of the hurt feelings.
The nation may recall that since 1949, the Babri structure in all purposes was Ram temple. Emotive issues are not forgotten. That led to the demolition of the structure in 1992. The way the GyanVapi is flaring up now with a non-issue of the plea for right to worship Shringar Gauri images sculpted on the outer wall of the Gyan Vapi to appointment of commissioners to do the survey of the premises and the discovery of Shivlinga indicates that the issue of demolition by Aurangzeb on Sept 2, 1669 can widely impact the course of Indian politics. The Hindutva-oriented parties would have ease in accessing the voters. Those not, would have to find a new political peg to remain relevant and vibrant.
It could start with Hyderabad’s Bhagyalakshmi temple. The TRS of Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao may have to take a stand on the crucial Bhagyalakshmi temple in the Charminar complex. Rao, facing the pincer attacks of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Home Minister Amit Shah may have to stir with deftness. The others and even MIM may pitch in to make the Telangana assembly elections interesting.
Whether Gujarat would like to rake up the Bhadrakali and Rudra Mahalaya issues, or Madhya Pradesh ignite the Vidisha and Bojshala or not, developments in the ensuing days would reveal. While in MP and Gujarat, the BJP will try to keep it low key but the opposition is also keen on proving its loyalty to Hindus and can try sailing on it as BJP may look for a chance in Bengal to peg on Adinath, Pandua.
Alok Kumar, president of VHP, an eminent lawyer, is categorical, “There has been no change in the status of the religious structure since 1947, and Hindus have always performed puja at the site” calling it GyanVapi Mandir. VHP national spokesperson Vinod Bansal said the faces of those who were trying to “hide the truth” have been “painted black” with the “findings”.
Two days ago at the Udaipur chintan meet Congress supported the 1947 law regarding Gyan Vapi. Today so far it has not come out with a similar supportive statement. In the BJP only Sangeet Som has threatened a replay of the 1992 ‘Babri demolition’. But the BJP is happy at the Varanasi court developments giving it time, extending the restrictions at the Gyan Vapi. They being the rulers in UP are acting with caution so that the gains take them to the logical conclusion. Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath is personally observing each of the developments.J&K PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti slammed the BJP for stoking the fires. It is simple. MIM leader A Owaisi says he is in pain. The Gyan Vapi will decide the religious fervour of Indian politics. The parties not aligned to BJP’s view have the challenge to tailor out new strategies. The minorities are in a dilemma. They are not keen on sailing with it or giving up but the voices within are advising them not to get into another confrontation and to solve the matter prudently. Whichever way it develops it would keep Indian politics warm and parties would have to stir cautiously to chart their way to the 2024 Lok Sabha and many assembly elections before that. The churning continues and the nation hopes that solution would emerge for a prosperous, peaceful nation.