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‘Majority of Indians have not voted for BJP… For the first time, AIMPLB has decided to reach out to leaders of non-Muslim bodies’

'It is very unfortunate that the so-called secular parties have not come out and said anything, in particular in defence of the Places of Worship Act. We are very disappointed by their lack of stance.' Excerpts from an interview with AIMPLB Executive Member Qasim Rasool Ilyas.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: May 20, 2022 1:24:49 pm
AIMPLB Executive Member Qasim Rasool Ilyas

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which is the apex body for Muslim organisations in India, held an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the ongoing case in a court there. The board demanded that both the central and the state governments make their stand clear on the matter. On Wednesday, the board said it would provide legal and financial assistance to the Gyanvapi Masjid  Intezamiya Committee to fight the case in the Supreme Court. Excerpts from an interview with AIMPLB Executive Member Qasim Rasool Ilyas:

What is the AIMPLB’s stand on the Gyanvapi mosque controversy?

We have a very clear stand on the matter. Once the Places of Worship Act came into being in 1991, there is simply no space for controversy regarding any place of worship. It had been unanimously decided and passed in Parliament, with even the support of the BJP, that after Babri Masjid, such matters would be put to rest. Therefore, it is extremely disheartening and disappointing that the lower court gave permission for the survey despite this Act being in place.

Starting with Gyanvapi, now other mosques in the country seem to be embroiled in a similar controversy. Do you think these controversies are politically motivated?

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This has happened over the last couple of days. A Hindu group in Karnataka has now claimed that the Masjid-e-Ala in Srirangapatna in Mandya district was a Hanuman temple and they should be allowed to worship there. Similar controversies have been created around the Neem Masjid in Madhya Pradesh, the Idgah in Mathura, and now even the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, where surveys are being demanded. The BJP-RSS commune has alleged that there are 30,000 mosques in the country that have been built by razing temples. Then there is no end to this, and such issues can be carried on for perpetuity, creating anarchy and chaos.

The controversies are a combination of the BJP’s political agenda and the RSS’s long-term agenda of creating a Hindu Rashtra. The BJP wants to distract people from rising prices, unemployment, and the health issues brought to light by the pandemic. The larger agenda for the RSS is to create a Hindu Rashtra by consuming all other minorities and erasing traces of these communities.

The AIMPLB has questioned the stance that secular parties have taken on the matter or the lack of it. What were your expectations from such parties?

It is very unfortunate that the so-called secular parties have not come out and said anything, in particular in defence of the Places of Worship Act. We are very disappointed by their lack of stance. And yet, when the elections roll up, they expect Muslims to vote for them. They feel that with the BJP in power, the Muslim community does not have a choice but to vote for them. They take their Muslim votes for granted. But I want to make it clear that this will not go on.

What is the recourse for the Muslim community under the circumstances?

This is not just about the Muslim community but the Constitution of India and the future of the country. They have come after Muslims today, tomorrow it will be Christians, and then Sikhs, and then Jains. However, a majority of India’s population has not voted for the BJP, at least not due to ideological reasons – that is a minority.

In the meeting yesterday (Tuesday), we decided that AIMPLB, for the first time, will reach out to leaders of all non-Muslim bodies. These include leaders of every other religious community, including the Hindu community. We will also reach out to civil society organisations, and discuss how this complete chaos can be stopped. Our idea is to present a united front, in the form of a Jan Andolan.

We have also formed a committee that will research, write and spread awareness about each controversy that comes to the fore — so that the real picture of each mosque is presented and the public is made aware.

Do you think minority rights are being infringed?

Indeed they are. Whether it’s with the hijab controversy in Karnataka or the communal clashes during Ram Navami or Hanuman Jayanti, and now the Masjid issue. I have visited the sites of the communal clashes — whether it was Jahingirpuri or Khargone. Even if one were to accept that stone-pelting took place, to demolish the homes of one particular community without a legal notice is in direct contravention of the process of law. We feel like there is no government right now, no rule of law, anyone can do what they like and get away with anything. This is a clear sign of moving toward fascism. We don’t believe that the majority of the population supports this. The problem is that this majority, a secular majority, has remained silent.

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