Questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi on whether he would attend the groundbreaking ceremony of Ram Mandir in his official or personal capacity, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi warned that construction of the temple would open Pandora's box for reclaiming more disputed religious sites, such as Mathura and Kashi.
The Lok Sabha Member of the Parliament (MP) from Hyderabad also attacked the central government’s handling of the border standoff with China, and called it a systemic failure on the lines of the 1999 conflict at Kargil, where Pakistani forces had occupied Indian territory undetected.
“The Prime Minister should tell the country if he is attending in individual capacity or as the Prime Minister. If he is going as the Prime Minister, it violates the cause of secularism, which is the basic structure of the Constitution,” he said, while speaking to the Free Press Journal, adding that as the PM, Modi represented citizens across religious denominations, and also atheists.
Owaisi said the Ram temple issue was a divisive one, and weakened faith in the rule of law. He added that those who were accused in the December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid that stood at the site would be invited for the function to be held on August 5 as chief guests. Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the Disaster Management Act, 2005, being invoked, Owaisi said if the Prime Minister could go and lay the foundation of the temple, all other places of worship should also be opened up for devotees.
He added that there was a chance that Hindutva forces could seek that the masjids at Kashi (Gyanavyapi) and Mathura be restored as temples. “Our concern is that once again, these issues may be raked up for masjids which at some point in history, were not masjids,” explained Owaisi.
Though the Supreme Court in last year’s Ram Mandir verdict said that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, would stand, the AIMIM chief said this legislation could be amended and repealed by the Modi government using its majority in the parliament.
This law prohibits the conversion of a temple into a mosque and vice-versa and maintains the religious character of these structures as it was during independence.
“The 1991 Act can be repealed by Narendra Modi using his majority just like Article 370 was removed in a breach of Constitutional promise. The Act may be repealed or it may be amended to say that it does not apply to these sites,” said Owaisi. “For Muslims, once a masjid, always a masjid,” he stressed.
Owaisi added that while the PM was laying the foundation stone for the Ram Temple, he had not shown “enough strength and conviction to evict the Chinese PLA still inside India’s (side of) Line of Actual Control (LAC).” Despite Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visiting Ladakh, the Chinese troops have not withdrawn from strategic positions inside Indian territory. He likened the Chinese incursion to “Kargil-II” or a redux of the 1999 conflict between Indian and Pakistan at Kargil, where India was initially unaware of Pakistani infiltration into its territory.