Upping the claim over the ostensible “birthplace” of Lord Krishna in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura, a group of devotees and the minor deity have moved a civil court, seeking removal of a mosque which they allege was built after a part of a Hindu shrine was razed on orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century.
In the suit filed before the Civil Judge, Mathura, the plaintiffs said that “every inch of land”, measuring 13.37 acres, “of Katra Keshav Dev (as the place is known historically) is sacred for devotees of Lord Shree Krishna and (the) Hindu community”.
The petitioners have sought “removal of encroachment and superstructure illegally raised” on it “by Committee of Management of alleged Trust Shahi Masjid Idgah with the consent of Sunni Central Board of Waqf”.
The deity and the “Janm Asthan (birthplace)” – the petitioners – are represented by next friend Ranjana Agnihotri, a Lucknow-based advocate. The other petitioners are devotees Pravesh Kumar, Rajesh Mani Tripathi, Karunesh Kumar Shukla, Shivaji Singh and Tripurari Tiwari.
The petitioners challenged the compromise arrived at between the “Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh, Mathura”, and the mosque trust in 1968 as “illegal and void ab initio (not legally binding)” and maintained that the land was vested in another trust — Shree Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust — and that the Seva Sangh was not authorised to act on its behalf. Under the terms of this “compromise”, the two sides demarcated their respective share of the land, the petition stated.
The plea contended that “in fact the original karagar (prison) – i.e. the birthplace of Lord Krishna – lies beneath the construction raised by” the mosque trust and the “fact will come out before the court after excavation”. The petitioners alleged that the mosque trust and the Seva Sangh “entered into a compromise and created artificial karagar” in order to “hide said fact from the public due to political reasons”.
They alleged that the Seva Sangh and the Trust management “played fraud upon the Court, the plaintiff Deities and devotees with a view to capture and grab the property”.
The plaintiffs contended that they have the “right under Article 26 of the Constitution to regain, hold and manage the property belonging to, owned and possessed by deity Lord Shree Krishna Virajmaan…situated within the area of Temple Complex in Katra Keshav Dev, City and District.”
They said, “The Constitution has portrayed Lord Shree Krishna on the page of Directive Principles of State Policy. The Plaintiffs have right under Article 29 and duty under Article 51A(f) of the Constitution of India to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of Lord Shree Krishna associated with His birth place.”
The suit gains significance as the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, enacted in September 1991 at the height of the Ayodhya temple movement when the P V Narasimha Rao government was in power, had said that barring the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, which was already in court, the religious character of a place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947 will continue to be the same.
However, the law’s Constitutional validity is under challenge in a separate petition before the Supreme Court. The petitioners have contended that the Act is unconstitutional, as it bars the right to seek judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution and outside the legislative competence of Parliament
The Mathura petition states that provisions of the 1991 Act is “not applicable in this case” but does not elaborate on it.
On history of the place and the dispute, they said that Raja Veer Singh Deva Bundela of Orchha “built/renovated” the temple of Shree Krishna there in 1618. The plea stated, “it is matter of fact and history that Aurangzeb…being staunch follower of Islam had issued orders for demolition of large number of Hindu religious places and temples including the temple standing at the birth place…in 1669-70.
“The army of Aurangzeb partly succeeded to demolish Keshav Dev Temple and a construction was forcibly raised showing the might of power and said construction was named as Idgah Mosque”.
They pointed out that Aurangzeb’s order finds place in the Official Court Bulletin (Akhbaraat) of January-February 1670, which was translated from Persian to English by late historian Jadu Nath Sarkar.
The demolition is also recorded by Italian traveller Niccola Manucci who worked in Mughal court, in his book “Storia do Mogar”, or Mughal India, 1653-1708, the plea mentioned.
The petition stated that after the Marathas defeated the Mughals in the war of Govardhan in 1770, “the temple was restored and renovated”. In 1803, the East India Company, under Lord Lake, captured Agra and Mathura after defeating the Marathas, it mentioned.
In 1815, the 13.37 acres was put up for auction and Raja Patni Mal of Banaras purchased it. In February 8, 1944, his heirs Rai Kishan Das and Rai Anand Das sold it for Rs 13,400, the petitioners stated.
The money, said the plaintiffs, was paid by Jugal Kishore Birla, who transferred ownership to Madan Mohan Malviya, Goswami Ganesh Dutt and Bhikhen Lalji Aattrey. Birla created the ‘Shree Krishna Janmbhoomi Trust’ in February 1951 “to fulfil the object of constructing a temple at the birthplace”, the petitioners stated.
This Trust, however, “failed to perform its duty to secure, preserve and protect the Trust property” and “is defunct from 1958”, the plaint said. On May 1, 1958, a Society was formed in the name of Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh, the plaintiffs pointed out.
Meanwhile, there were more cases and in 1967, the Seva Sangh, through its joint secretary Bhagwan Dass Bhargava, filed a suit before the Mathura Munsiff court contending that “Birla endowed the entire rights and interest in the…property” to it, according to the petition.
It was following this suit that a compromise took place on October 12, 1968 and the Civil Judge decided the suit in terms of the compromise on November 7, 1974, the plaintiffs said. They said that “no part of the property…is Waqf property…and therefore, construction in question within the property in question cannot be a Mosque”.
When the land was sold in auction in 1915, they said, “there was no mosque in existence/or in use …A small dilapidated structure was only lying in the corner of Katra Keshav Dev. Later on, Muslims called the said structure as Mosque. In pursuance of illegal compromise dated 12.10.1968 …a construction has been raised which is being called as Alleged Shahi Masjid Idgah.”
The deity is the owner of the land, the plaintiffs said, and “in the Municipal record of Mathura-Vindravan Nagar Nigam, Lord Keshav Dev has been recorded as owner of the entire land of Katra Keshav Dev” and “the water tax and other taxes are being paid on behalf of the deity”.