Hindu worship had not been held in these places for thirty-one years. Thursday, February 1, at three in the morning, two Hindu priests descended into the cellars of the Gyanvapi mosque in the city of Benares (Varanasi), the “spiritual capital” of India located in the state of Uttar Pradesh (North). Access to this cave had been prohibited since 1993 by the local government, following the destruction by extremists of the Ayodhya mosque in December 1992, which led to violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
But on Wednesday January 31, a decision by the Benares court, the electoral district of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, restored the right to perform “puja”, rituals of worship, five times a day. “We are deeply surprised and disappointed by the judgment delivered by the Varanasi District Judgegoverned an NGO defending Muslims throughout India. From our point of view, this decision appears to be based on a completely incorrect and unfounded argument. »
A fate already sealed
Friday, a day of prayer, the police presence was greatly reinforced in front of the building. For his part, the Grand Mufti of Benares, Abdul Batin Nomani, has been increasing calls for peace in the face of a tense situation for a week. In recent days, the area around the mosque was relatively calm, according to witnesses.
The Gyanvapi mosque has been in the sights of Indian authorities and Hindu extremists for many decades. For the latter, the place of worship should be destroyed because it would have been built following the destruction of a temple dedicated to the god Shiva. For many faithful, the site remains sacred, and must be returned to Hindu worship.
This court decision comes about a week after the inauguration of the giant Ram temple in Ayodhya, on the site of the ancient mosque, by Prime Minister Modi. What makes some fear the destruction of the Gyanvapi mosque by the crowd?
“Justice is at the command of the BJP (Narendra Modi’s nationalist party in power, Editor’s note) who cannot do anything without his approvalestimates Christophe Jaffrelot, specialist on India and researcher at the Sciences Po international research center. Justice can thus legitimize the use of force by factions wanting the destruction of the mosque. Or the Uttar Pradesh government could decide to raze it to the ground. »
The state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a monk and member of the BJP, has never hidden his hostility towards Islam. The fate of the Benares mosque thus seems already sealed.
Impunity of Hindu nationalists
Last week also saw a 600-year-old mosque in the capital New Delhi destroyed without its leaders being informed. This succession of events is linked to the political calendar and the legislative elections which will be held in April. “The campaign began with the inauguration of the Ayodhya templeanalyzes Christophe Jaffrelot. The promotion of Hinduism and India’s ethno-religious identity will be the driving force of this electoral sequence. »
The successive legal decisions are also symptoms of the omnipotence of the BJP and the absence of safeguards. “This vein is inexhaustibleadds the researcher. There are hundreds of mosques built on temples. This resource can allow them to continue to polarize society for years. » To the detriment of other religions. Another mosque, located in Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), another of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism, is the subject of fears in the face of the desires of Hindu nationalists.