Article: As Nadda outlines ‘official position’ on Gyanvapi, BJP hides more than it shows

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta

In what may appear as a stark contrast between its political campaign and the party’s “official” stance, the Bharatiya Janata Party president J.P. Nadda on Monday, May 30, said that the party will take a position on the Gyanvapi mosque controversy in accordance to the constitution and the decisions given by the courts.

“We have always been talking about cultural development. But these issues are dealt with in accordance with the constitution and the ruling of courts. So, the court and constitution will decide on it and the BJP will follow it in letter and spirit,” Nadda said, while addressing the press on the eve of the Narendra Modi government’s eighth anniversary.

His statement has come at a time when BJP leaders and workers have left no stone unturned to assert that the controversial structure inside the mosque is a ‘shivling’ – a remnant of the erstwhile Hindu temple that the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb had destroyed. The claim has been repeated day-in and day-out in media debates and public discussions by BJP leaders and workers, even as the mosque authorities have insisted in the courts that it was a defunct fountain in the mosque’s wazukhana. The saffron party’s “unofficial” campaign on controversial structures was timed with the leak of a video taken during the survey ordered by a local court, and fanned the belief among Hindus that the structure was indeed a revered ‘shivling’, leading to polarised debates around the issue.

Only a few months ago, in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the then deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had tweeted that the construction of grand temples was already going on in Ayodhya and Kashi (Varanasi), and that the party was getting ready to build a similar grand temple in Mathura.

Such a position taken by one of the top officials of a BJP government was in line with the age-old Sangh Parivar campaign to reclaim the land in Varanasi and Mathura where mosques are believed to have been built on temple land in the 17th century by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.

The BJP’s political campaign to correct the past sins of “Muslim” rulers has only hardened after the Supreme Court allowed the construction of a Ram temple at the site where the Babri Masjid, now demolished, stood. Slogans like “Ayodhya toh bas jhaanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaqi hai” or “Jo Ram ko laaye hai, hum unko layenge” were used with vigour by the BJP rank and file to campaign for chief minister Adityanath in the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

BJP’s supporters and associates have, in fact, nudged judicial corridors more frequantly after the Ram Janmabhoomi judgment, the most recent example of which is the admission of a petition seeking to remove the Shahi Idgah mosque inside the premises of Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura.

Against such a backdrop, Nadda’s statement on the Gyanvapi Mosque controversy only highlights the janus-faced nature of Indian politics.

His “official” stance has also come at a time when the opposition forces and critics have decried BJP’s and the larger Hindu nationalist family’s aggressive stance to establish the controversial structure inside the mosque as a ‘shivling’. This, they have said, is in direct violation of the courts that are still hearing the matter and are yet to take a decision on it. In fact, the Supreme Court, while hearing the matter, ordered that the matter be transferred to an experienced judge at the district court and panned the illegal leaking of the survey video to the media.

When reporters asked Nadda about the party’s age-old campaign around temples at Kashi and Mathura, the BJP president skirted the issue with a technical answer. He said that only the Ram Janmabhoomi issue was taken up as part of the party’s political agenda following a resolution on it at the Palampur national executive meeting in 1989, and “after that there has been no (such) resolution”.

Indian Express quoted a top government official who said that the BJP has not officially said “anything” on the Kashi and Mathura disputes, and that it will abide by the court rulings. The court orders during the course of hearings on the Gyanvapi mosque controversy until now have only favoured the Hindu side and shown great reluctance in upholding the Places of Worship Act, 1991. The 1991 Act says that a mosque, temple, church or any place of public worship in existence on August 15 1947, will retain the same religious character that it had on that day – irrespective of its history – and cannot be changed by the courts or the government.

In such circumstances, Nadda’s “official” statement plays out in consonance with the Sangh Parivar’s ideological line of reclaiming the temple land in both Kashi and Mathura. The government functionary with whom the Indian Express spoke made the convenient position taken by the BJP clearer. People may have different views but “BJP as a party has not said anything on this,” the official said. “We cannot stop people from interpreting the law the way they want. We will go with the decision of the courts,” they added.

Nadda’s statement, which incidentally invokes the constitution and the courts, skirts the real question of whether the ruling party is politically in favour of violating the Places of Worship Act, 1991.

Instead of addressing this very crux of the controversy, Nadda took refuge in making generic statements.

“When we work politically, it is our endeavour to take everyone along. We have to be ready for it. We are ready for it. There are many types of people in a society. Some respond earlier, some later, some after decades and some respond after much time has passed. It depends on them. But our conduct is on the principle of a strong nation, one nation. This is clear and everyone will have an equal share,” he said, adding that the Modi government functions on the principle of “sabka saath, sabka vishwas, sabka prayaas (‘with everyone, development for everyone, everyone’s efforts’)”.

His response to the BJP-led Uttarakhand government taking up another polarising and controversial matter of formulating a Uniform Civil Code was similar.

“It is okay. They (Uttarakhand) are discussing it. As far as we are concerned, we have been saying that everyone must be treated equally. Our broad outline is justice to all, appeasement of none. This is our basic principle, we are working in accordance with it,” he said.

Ironically, at the same event, the BJP released a theme song titled ‘Modi government architect of new India’, the highlights of which were the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the Kashi Vishwanath corridor in Varanasi. It even showed a glimpse of the upcoming Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura.

The added significance of Nadda’s statements can be deduced from what was left unsaid – that the Modi government is not taking a step back from pursuing its aggressive Hindutva, which inevitably will come along with symbolic or real persecution of Indian minorities. Rather, his statements only indicate that the BJP has kept enough room to manoeuvre through the political and constitutional hurdles that it may face in the near future as its own rank and file intensify the campaign to “reinstate” the lost Hindu temple at the site of the Gyanvapi mosque.

Courtesy The Wire

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