The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 has become the focus in the Gyanvapi Mosque case in which the lawyers of Hindu petitioners said they found a ‘Shivling’ in the pond during the court-mandated videography survey of the complex. It is expected that the law will be re-looked vis-à-vis new findings in the case.
Senior BJP leaders said they believe much will depend on the survey report that will be filed in the Varanasi court, which can then open measures that may amend the Act.
According to sources in the BJP, the claims of lawyers that the ‘Shivling’ was found in the Gyanvapi mosque will eventually ensure offering of prayers by Hindus at their place of worship.
“What did we ask for? Three places of faith including Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya. When the Places of Worship Act was passed in Parliament, many saints opposed it and they openly said these three places should be left out of the purview of the law,” said a senior BJP leader.
As BJP leaders discuss what the ‘Shivling’ in Gyanwapi mosque means for other places of worship where temples were demolished to erect mosques, many believe the turn of events has also given a fillip to Hindus’ claim on Lord Krishna’s birthplace in Mathura.
Many expect that soon there will be voices within the party who will raise the issue of Mathura temple for Hindus.
“This finding in Gyanvapi will eventually change how the Places of Worship Act will look like. It is slated to be changed, eventually,” said a senior party leader.
BJP leaders said the party staged a walkout when the Act was passed by then PV Narasimha Rao government.
“We have always kept the sensitivity of the matter in mind while claiming our right on places of worship that are so important to us. Despite repeated requests, Muslim representatives did not pay any heed and now with evidence coming to the fore, we expect the Muslim side to respect our faith and sentiments,” said another BJP leader.
There are many in the RSS who believe that illegally occupying land to offer prayers is anti-Islam. In a first statement on Gyanvapi mosque matter, RSS’s Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh, Sunil Ambekar said, “We should let evidence and proof come out in the Gyanvapi case. You can not suppress history for long. It is the right time to bring forward all such evidence, in the right perspective in front of our people."
Also, there are some who believe that the illegally constructed mosques were part of the well-thought-out war on the beliefs of Hindus.
“They wanted to inflict assault on pride of Hindus and thus encroached upon the temples, demolished half the structures and kept a few pieces in the mosque, which was constructed over it, to insult the religious sentiments,” said a senior BJP functionary.
Alok Kumar, international working president of Vishva Hindu Parishad, an RSS affiliate, and senior advocate in the Supreme court, said had there been no merit in the case, the top court would not have issued the notice to the government.
“The Places of Worship Act (Special Provisions) 1991 has been challenged and the SC has issued a notice to the government. Ordinarily, if there is no substance in the petition or case, the SC would not have issued the notice,” Kumar said.
He also stressed when the Act was passed there were no wider consultations with either Hindus or Muslims, nor it was sent to the select committee. “It would be appropriate if the country debates it,” Kumar opined.
A senior functionary of Sangh, who did not wish to be named, said, “During the Ayodhya case, Muslim petitioners themselves had stated in the affidavit that any land illegally encroached upon cannot be used to offer Namaz as it will not be acceptable to Allah. There has been an instance where Pegambar (religious leader) offered Namaz in a field and gave money to the owner for using the land for prayers. The Muslim clerics should follow what Islam says and not otherwise.”