After the Babri Masjid judgement in 2019, there have been five instances where the origin of various structures has been the subject of litigation before various courts nationwide. Such a process is unlawful under the Places of Worship Act 1991, which prohibits the conversion of any religious monument or structure and bars courts from entertaining such suits. But as pressures grow from the Hindu right, the law itself is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

By Areeb Uddin Ahmed

Lucknow: After the Babri Masjid judgment in 2019, there have been five instances where the origin of places of worship, mosques in particular, have been the subject of litigation before various courts nationwide. 

Such litigation is unlawful, barred as it is by the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act 1991, which prohibits changing the “religious character” of a place of worship as it existed on 15 August 1947 and bars courts from entertaining such suits. 

The Babri judgement itself went against the law, but a five-judge Supreme Court constitution bench while terming the destruction of the Babri Masjid as “an egregious violation of the rule of law” also declared that the title of the disputed site was vested in favour of the Hindu parties and awarded the disputed site to child deity, Ram Lalla.

The most recent example of such litigation being admitted in violation of the law is a Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) survey of the seventeenth-century Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, where a local court on 16 May ordered the sealing of an area where a court-appointed committee allegedly found a “Shiva lingam”, a Hindu religious symbol of the god Shiva.

The Gyanvapi case is now encouraging Hindu groups to make claims of opening mosques for prayers or searching mosques or other Islamic monuments for evidence of temples, as evident with claims made for the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Qutb Minar in Delhi.

In Karnataka, members of a Hindu forum named after Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Narendra Modi Vichar Manch) sought permission from the local administration in May to offer prayers at the two-century old Jamia Masjid in Srirangapatna, which they claimed stands over the ruins of a Hanuman temple.

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