‘Hybrid’ claims cannot allow Hindu intrusion into an exclusive Muslim place of worship
India’s many sites of syncretic importance have always attracted the attention of Hindutva. Yet Hindutva activists have now resorted to labeling the Gyanvapi Mosque as a place of “hybrid worship”. Some of them say aarti should be allowed alongside namaz and others say the court should grant it to Hindus only. During the hearing of the Masjid Committee’s plea before the Supreme Court, a remark was made by Judge DY Chandrachud on a hypothetical crucifix in a hypothetical Parsi agiari, which might leave the religious character of such a place open to appreciation. These passing words are repeated as if they constitute a legal precedent to qualify the Gyanvapi mosque as a “hybrid place of worship” which a court must decide.
Remarks that fall from the bench during oral argument are interim motions or poseurs and cannot be construed as legal precedent. A court can orally hypothesize to get answers, thinking out loud so to speak, but there is nothing more. Should every question a court put to the prosecution in a criminal case be considered an acquittal or every question put to the defense a conviction?
The judicial precedent applicable to the Gyanvapi controversy remains the judgment of the Constitutional Bench in the Ayodhya the case, which, unanimously and unequivocally, considers that Places of Worship Act, 1991 will prevail, as legislation to maintain constitutional goals, so that history does not overwhelm the present and the future.
The definition in Section 2(c) of the above Act is to the effect that a “place of worship” is one and not the other of the types mentioned therein – temple, mosque, church, gurudwara – Where other public place of worship. The places are classified according to the nature of their faith and disjunctively from each other. A mosque is listed in its own right, as opposed to places of worship of other faiths. There is no escaping this distinctive recognition.
No authority is needed to say that a mosque has a certain religious character, but it happens that a 1942 judgment of the Allahabad High Court recognizes the Gyanvapi Mosque precisely by its Muslim character. A mosque would be ipso facto exclude any hybrid worship or Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Christian or Baha’i. The oral remarks of Judge Chandrachud during a hearing cannot be cited to give a mosque such a heretical and ambivalent status.
A mosque allowing Hindu idolatry is an oxymoron, as would a temple or gurudwara allowing a Friday congregation for namaz. Since the 18th century, the Kashi Vishvanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque coexist. Does this make their hybrid status, to allow namaz, azaan and the sacrifices of Bakrid in the temple of Vishvanath? No, and it does not allow the reverse either.
The separate enumeration of the “mosque” in Section 2(c) of the Act and the stipulation against conversion are sufficient to rule on its past and any remaining idols within, irrelevant – a point recognized by the judgment of the constitution bench and made earlier in Thread. There is no basis for saying that if a mosque contains traces of the temple on which it was built, then it acquires a hybrid nature or that there must be a judicial determination as to whether it is or not of a mosque or a temple. The 1991 law prohibits any court order altering the religious character of places of worship, especially those that existed at the time of India’s independence. The Ancient Monuments Act 1958if and when applicable, will have the same effect.
This is not a case where symbols of two different religions suddenly surfaced in an open field, leading to speculation as to whether this is or was a site of one or the other. the other, calling for an assessment by a court. Gyanvapi Mosque is a known site of a temple demolished to build a mosque in 1669, which mosque has openly served as a place of Muslim worship to this day. This would be enough for the law to protect the mosque from Hindu intrusion and even from any prospect of an assessment of its status today.
Now let’s move on to the claim that idol worship was continuous in the area of the mosque. The pleadings on the Hindu side are delightfully vague on exactly where worship took place after 1669.
Is it their case that after razing the temple and building a mosque on its ruins, Aurangzeb allowed the worship of idols in that mosque? Is it their case that this Hindu worship took place in the mosque during British rule, although the judgment of the High Court of Allahabad of 1942 records the meticulous care taken by the administration to keep the rights of worship separate from the Hindus and Muslims in this complex? Is it their case that this took place after independence, when the mere fact that a designated mosque existed on August 15, 1947 will render Hindu worship within it both illegal and irrelevant? Or is it their case of Hindu worship in the mosque for some time after 1991, after the law mandated prosecution and imprisonment for such conduct?
Some of the recent Hindu complainants have admitted that they have never entered the mosque. That aside, their claim of a survey to find ‘visible or invisible’ idols and a ‘Shivling’ that remained unknown until 2022 shows that Hindus still had no idea what was in the mosque. . So much for the continuation of Hindu worship.
There is a fundamental contradiction between syncretism and the reasoned use of the term “hybrid” to allow Hindu intrusion into an exclusive Muslim place of worship. Those who appreciate syncretic traditions will celebrate the fact that in Varanasi, the land of Kabir, distinct Hindu and Muslim worship sites coexist, which they should be reluctant to disturb.