Hindu nationalists’ claim over Mathura mosque; A replay of Ayodhya playbook

Since the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the Supreme Court’s decision to construct Ram Mandir on the land where once the Masjid stood, Hindutva groups have been claiming sites, where mosques are standing, as Hindu sacred sites. Various Hindutva forces have constantly invoked the slogan “Ayodhya Toh Sirf Jhanki Hai, Kashi Mathura Baki Hai” which translates to – “Ayodhya is a mere trailer, Kashi and Mathura are still left”, referring to the Gyanvapi Mosque in Benaras and the Shahi Eidgah Mosque in Mathura.

One such claim is about the Shahi Eidgah Mosque of Mathura. The Krishna temple that stands adjacent to the mosque and various other religious myths such as the Kansa and Krishna war fable, the existence of the prison where Lord Krishna was supposedly “born” on the site where the Shahi Eidgah stands since the 17th century, are being used to claim it as Krishna “Janmbhoomi” or the birthplace of Krishna- a Hindu deity heavily worshiped in Mathura and the regions around it. But these claims aren’t as new as they appear to be, although a fresh suit was filed in September 2020, wherein the plaint claimed the place where the Eidgah Mosque stands to be the birthplace of Krishna. The suit further notes that a part of the temple was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to construct the Eidgah Mosque.

In 1968, an agreement between the two parties, the Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and the Shahi Eidgah committee granted the temple land to the Shree Krishana Janmsthan Seva Sangha and the management of the Eidgah to the latter. However, this particular agreement has also been challenged by the plaint, claiming it to be deceptive.

Mathura Mosque issue bears an uncanny resemblance with Babri Masjid issue, the Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan claims that the Eidgah was built on the birth-site of Lord Krishna by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, very similar to the claim that Babri Masjid was built on Ram Mandir temple (Ram “Janmbhoomi” – birthplace of Lord Ram) destroyed by Mughal emperor Babur – a trope commonly used to malign the image of Muslim rulers. The plaint further argues that the courts have ruled multiple times in favor of the descendants of Raja Patnimal, who purchased the land after the British auctioned it.

Hindutva groups have been launching attacks on Muslims in Mathura since the time Babri Masjid demolition took place.

In his article published by India Today in 1993, Yubaraj Ghimire noted: “The BJP claims that Kashi and Mathura are not on its ‘agenda immediately’. But with VHP General Secretary Ashok Singhal and RSS Joint General Secretary Rajendra Singh making no bones about the fact that Mathura is still very much on their agenda, it is just a question of time before the Hindutva forces strike again. As Singh declared: ‘What Advani has said is that they are not on their agenda immediately. But he has not said it will never be’.”

The special report further noted that Manohar Lal Sharma, a resident of Brindaban, filed a restraining order in Allahabad High Court to stop Muslims from offering Namaz in the Eidgah. He also filed another petition challenging the 1968 agreement. Prior to this, in 1951 Yugal Kishor Birla also launched a trust for the construction of a temple in the place where the Masjid stands.

In a rather foreseeable manner, Ghimire ends the report with: “But the Sangh brotherhood hasn’t always been known to wait for court verdicts. And it may not do so this time either.”

It is crucial to note that Sangh Parivar – the leader of Hindutva politics, as foreseen by Ghimire, hasn’t sat back to wait for court verdicts, attacks have been launched on Muslims again and again throughout decades to scare the Muslim population around Mathura.

In 1992, after the Babri demolition, CRPF was deployed in the premises of Shahi Eidgah to prevent a Babri-like situation, the Seva Sansthan wrote to the then governor of Uttar Pradesh seeking the removal of CRPF from the site in a quest to prove their ownership of the land. Since August 2019, when the Supreme Court ruled in the favor of the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, situation has aggravated, along with fresh petitions being put forward, Muslims are being attacked on a daily basis to instill fear amongst them. One such incident includes vandalization of a Muslim vendor’s Dosa Stall by Hindutva men. Another incident involved cow vigilantes thrashing two Muslim men for carrying meat, which the vigilantes thought was beef.

To spread terror amongst Muslims, Hindutva militants are constantly targeting the minority group and their places of worship. On November 28, 2021, section 144 was imposed in Mathura after Hindu Mahasabha leader Rajyashri Chaudhry announced that her organization will install the idol of Lord Krishna in the Shahi Idgah after its “purification” on 6th December.

6th December is also the date when Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindutva groups in 1992. This announcement came 18 days after Uttar Pradesh CM and Hindutva Politician, Yogi Adityanath called for the transformation of Mathura into a “pilgrimage like Ayodhya.”

With rising hate crimes against Muslims all around India, it is important to understand these incidents of hate crime are a part of the systematic genocide of Muslims in India which has only strengthened with Hindutva politicians holding offices of power. And as Hindutva forces have been claiming from long ago, the day is not far when a Babri-like incident could be repeated to claim Mosque sites and Hindu sacred spaces which might inevitably result in a further rise in hate crimes or even a pogrom like situation for Muslims across India. What is clear from the Babri Masjid issue is that Hindutva forces repeat their pattern of violence and it echoes across regions and states.

Shambhavi Siddhi completed her master’s degree in French and francophone literature from JNU. She is currently pursuing a PG Diploma in Women’s and Gender Studies from IGNOU.