In 1947 when India achieved freedom from the Britishers, it was achieved at a very high and a dear cost. The highest and the painful cost that India paid was its cruel division on the communal basis. The Congress went into the trap of the Britishers and agreed to their plan of division based on the demand of the Muslim League to create a separate homeland for Muslims. With the creation of Islamic republic of Pakistan, India was quite justified to declare itself a Hindu nation, but the government led by Pt. Nehru opted for a secular and democratic republic of India. Hindus by and large in India went ahead with the decision with the hope that the new dispensation would take care of the interests of all irrespective of their faith, region and language.
The post partition tragedies reflected in the shape of mass massacre and displacement of people that created challenging situation but was dealt with great care and sympathetic attitude. The people having the experience of freedom struggle, history, governance and then the partition of India were expected to resolve the issues related to the historical errors committed in the past. Instead of making an attempt to resolve the concerns for ever, the people in the government adopted an ostrich policy towards these issues. Though a few issues were urgently addressed like the renaming of Viceroy’s palace (now Rashtrapati Bhawan), King’s way (Earlier Rajpath now Kartavyi-path) etc. However, major issues that needed resolution were kept pending.
Sardar Patel, KM Munshi and Rajendra Prasad took the initiative to rebuild the Somnath temple in Gujarat which was looted and destroyed by Mohd. Gazni centuries ago. Though Pt. Nehru was reluctant to do so, yet Sardar Patel and others went with the decision and were ultimately successful in restoring the pride and creating a befitting marvel at Somnath dedicated to the Lord Shiva on the shores of the Arabian sea. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, inaugurated the newly constructed temple, again contrary to the wishes of Pt. Nehru, who wanted him to keep himself away from the ceremony.
With the resolution of the Somnath issue, there was a debate among the Hindu community to ask the government to put all such historical wrongs committed in the past right. A list of thousands of such sites was prepared by various thinkers, leaders and activists among the community in this regard. However, some important saner elements suggested that in order to achieve the goals of secularism, peace and harmony, the Hindu community should think afresh in claiming the rightful ownership of such places of worship in the country. It remained debatable for a long time but the senior and saner elements prevailed upon all.
Though there were hundreds of glaring instances to prove that the temples of Hindus were demolished by the earlier foreign Muslim rulers throughout India and some were even converted into mosques, yet it was believed that let bygones be bygones. However, it was generally agreed that among all such three thousand places of worship in India, the three most sacred placed for Hindus in Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi should be fully handed over to the Hindu community as a symbolic gesture of unity, co-existence, longing peace, brotherhood and harmony. Accordingly, a silent movement in this direction was launched by the Hindu activists around 1949-50 consequent upon the locking of the Ramjanambhumi complex by the then administration in UP.
The governments of all hues from 1950 to 1985 remained quite indifferent to these important issues of concern for the Hindu society and also towards the consequent ramifications of the discontent among the society in this regard. Instead, the policy of Muslim appeasement adopted by all the governments irked the Hindu society at large. There is one instance to show when a high level Muslim delegation went to meet the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai in 1977, after the Janta Party victory in the elections, that the people in command raised these issues with the Muslim community. When the delegation put its demands before the Prime Minister for their redressal, Morarji Desai assured them to look into all demands provided the delegation assured him also about an issue of concern of the Hindu community. He asked the delegation that it would be beneficial for the Muslim community as well as for the whole country in case the Muslims agree to leave their claim on the three most important sacred places of Hindus at Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. The Muslim delegation kept silent over the issue and came out as a disgruntled block out of the meeting hall.
It was in 1980-81, that the prominent leaders and activists of the Hindu community went for a full fledged movement in this regard. What happened thereafter is history and after a relentless struggle of more than four decades, the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya is finally a reality. Keeping in view the sentimental attachment of the Hindu community with these three sacred places at Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi, it would have been appropriate that instead of fighting the cases at the legal and political platforms, the Muslim community should have initiated negotiations with the Hindu community directly in this regard. Seeing the Ayodhya movement and the judgements of the courts, it is important for all parties to come to a negotiated settlement on the issue for the sake of the future harmony among the two communities.
In its 1994 judgement, the Supreme Court of India said, “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”. The apex court later in 2012 rejected to review this judgement that was earlier delivered by the court in the Ismail Farouqi case. In addition to this, the Places of Worship Act 1991 has a number of technical shortcomings which have been raised by a number of constitutional experts and legal luminaries; hence may be incompetent to help the Muslim side in case they stuck to their guns. At both the places, Mathura and Kashi, though there are functional mosques at the site side by side of the ancient Hindu temples, yet the title suits to the mosques are pending in the courts of law. While the Hindu temples at both the sites are free from any sort of encumbrance, the mosques are clearly under a huge dispute of title.
It would be in order for the Muslim community to have an in-depth study of the matter keeping in view the whole scenario and also the sentiments of the Hindu community in this regard. For the Hindus, it is the land that is important, but for the Muslims it is the structure of the mosques that is important. We can shift the structure to a different place brick by brick and thus recreate the mosques there. Thus the land will be available to the Hindus for the grand temples befitting the importance of the most sacred places of worship. Here it needs to be noted that the reference to the Archeological Survey of India in both the cases by the concerned courts is going to further bring down the chances of the Muslim side. The archeological and historical evidences, obviously, go heavily into the favour of Hindus. The ASI report in connection with the Gyanvyapi in Kashi that has been made public now is a classic example in this regard.
In such a scenario, where legal, political and social tussle between the communities is inevitable, it would be highly advisable for the Muslim community to come forward for an amicable settlement outside the court. It will surely enhance the image and future of the community for ever. The biggest gain for the community, in such a scenario, would be that it can take a guarantee from the Hindu community and the government of India to stop raising any such issue in future. In case the Muslim community won’t like to adopt this route and would instead go for the legal solution of the issues, it will surely forfeit its moral right to ask the Hindu community to stop their campaign for liberation of the other places of worship throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Hindus and Muslims alike are natives of this land and have the same ancestry barring a meagre percentage of our population. Besides having the same DNA, we all have a common history, common heritage and civilization. Shri Ram and Shri Krishna are our great civilizational icons, besides being the centre of faith. India is on the path of advancement in all fields, and in the emerging scenario, it is highly painful to carry the unwanted baggage of the past. It would be desirable that we come to a broader understanding and pave way for the negotiated settlement of the sacred places of Mathura and Kashi. This would be a historic step in case the Muslim community comes forward in this context in consequence of an open appeal for an amicable settlement of the issue. This would be a great gift of the current generation to the generations
to come in future and would thus create opportunities for everlasting peace, tranquality and co-existence. It would further add grace to our nation and nationhood in the eyes of the world at large.