"Ayodhya toh bas jhaanki hai, Kashi, Mathura baaki hai." Reports say that this was the VHP’s war cry in the years leading up to Babri Masjid demolition. And with the movement to 'reclaim' Ayodhya concluded satisfactorily, it would seem that many are turning their focus onto other disputed sites in India.
Two mosques in Mathura and Kashi have long been a bone of contention for several Hindu factions in the country. Varanasi's Gyanvapi Mosque shares a border with the present day Kashi Vishwanath temple and by several accounts was built by Aurangzeb on the ruins of the original temple. The Mughal emperor is also believed to have been behind the construction of the Shahi Idgah that stands adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura.
Over the decades, there have been many a petition seeking the removal of these religious structures. But the situation is somewhat different from that in Ayodhya. For one thing, these structures continue to stand till date, and for another, they fall under the purview of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. While the Act had been passed a year before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the disputed site in Ayodhya had been exempted. Indeed, even as the Supreme Court set aside the area for a Ram temple, it had repeatedly brought up the Act to censure those who had sought to tear down the structure.
Now however, things might be changing. Acting on a plea challenging the Act, the Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre. The PIL alleges that the 1991-law creates an "arbitrary and irrational retrospective cut-off date" of August 15, 1947 for maintaining the character of the places of worship or pilgrimage against encroachment done by "fundamentalist-barbaric invaders and law-breakers".
While there is no guarantee that the Centre will support the plea, it assumes significance amid growing calls from some Hindu groups to reclaim the religious sites in question. And against this backdrop, the RSS is reportedly stepping up efforts for the VHP's demand for a debate on the issue.
"If accurately reported, then Jai Ho!!!" exclaimed BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy in response to the report. At the same time, the news has also provoked a slew of critical comments on social media platforms.