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Print edition : Jun 17, 2022 T+T-

‘We are hopeful of a positive outcome’

Alok Kumar, international working president of the VHP.

Alok Kumar, international working president of the VHP. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Interview with Alok Kumar, international working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

On May 16, lawyers representing the petitioners in the Gyanvapi mosque case told the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar in Varanasi that a Shivling had been found in the wazu khana, or ablution tank, of the mosque. The caretakers of the mosque refuted the claim and said that the stone was part of a water fountain and not a Shivling.

On cue, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) upped the ante and claimed that the Shivling was one of the 12 jyotirlingas found in different temples across the country. According to Hindu mythology, a jyotirlinga is the holiest of holy lingas of Siva and 12 of them still exist.

In an exclusive interview, Alok Kumar, the VHP’s international working president, told Frontline that he would like to urge the Muslims to voluntarily give up the disputed Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi to Hindus. He also wants them to give up the Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura. The Hindu Mahasabha recently filed a plea in a civil court to ‘purify’ the Shahi Idgah mosque, claiming that it was built on the sanctum sanctorum of Krishna Janmabhoomi.

A former Deputy Speaker of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, Alok Kumar took over as the international working president of the VHP in 2018 from Praveen Togadia. He has been a low-key but active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) for decades. As a lawyer, he has defended the Sangh Parivar in court several times, including after the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992, when the government banned the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP. As president of the Bharatiya Chitra Sadhna, he promotes ‘Bharatiyata’ in films. Bharatiyata is a new term in the Hindutva lexicon that can be interpreted to mean a conservative and regressive village society or Ramrajya.

He is also the managing director of Bharat Prakashan (Delhi) Ltd, which publishes Panchjanya and Organiser, both RSS mouthpieces. Excerpts from the interview:

From Ayodhya to Kashi, it has been a long journey for the VHP. Initial court orders seem to be in your favour.
The initial court orders and the outcomes in terms of the survey report are encouraging. We are hopeful of a positive outcome. However, final justice is still a long way ahead.
First of all, the debris found clearly shows the presence of Hindu motifs. Second, not just above the ground but in the basement, too, the pillars have Hindu motifs. Finally, the discovery of the Shivling. All three things tell us that it used to be a temple. There is no doubt about it. Besides, Shringar Gauri puja is still being performed as it has always been.
Will all this lead to a situation like the one in Ayodhya, where the mosque will cease to exist?
That is a possibility, yes.
Do you think it is possible because there is a favourable government at the Centre and in the State?
All the orders in the matter have been passed by the court, not by the executive. The order for the survey was given by the trial court. The High Court too ordered it. The Supreme Court declined to get involved and passed it back to the lower court. But it did not say no to the survey. Whatever be the court’s order, it is binding on all of us. I don’t think the presence of a sympathetic government has been a factor in the current developments.
What about the run-up to the case itself? The beautification drive of Varanasi, clearing of the roads around the Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex, the charged campaign around the issue?
Sometimes, a single event creates an awareness that cannot be achieved by 10,000 things happening. The discovery, photographs and news of the Shivling have galvanised Hindu society and they are determined to see victory.
So, is Mathura next?
The Mathura case is still in the trial court. The district judge has already said that the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, do not apply in this case. He accepted this and also said that Mathura is not covered by the Act.
There is a view that all the orders given by courts so far in the Kashi case violate the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
No court order has violated any law. If the matter has gone to court and it is decided there, then we all must abide by it. The Mathura case, as I said, is not covered by the Act. For Gyanvapi, a person named Deen Mohammad had filed a case arguing that the entire property belongs to the Waqf Board. But the suit was dismissed in 1942. The trial court maintained that it was not waqf property in 1942 itself. This is an archaeological site more than 100 years old, so the Act does not apply to it.
Thirdly, the Act exempts all places of worship that are governed by other Acts. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is governed by the Uttar Pradesh Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983. So where is the dispute?
What about Qutb Minar? Is it next on your agenda?
I wouldn’t like to comment on this for now. The attention now is only on Kashi, Mathura, and Ayodhya. If Muslims hand over Varanasi and Mathura to Hindus voluntarily, it will be counted as a goodwill gesture and Hindus will not take it any further. This would pave the way for a permanent solution.