«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»
Mrs. Kavita Bhardwaj, the guesthouse owner, recounts that the difficult situation was created by ‘the Muslims’ because they destroyed the temple and the linga and built a mosque in its place; she does not approve of that, but history cannot be changed and she holds that now the situation should not be disturbed. This thought is shared Interviews with Mr. Abdullah Jha & Mrs. Shabnam Jha, Kachahari, 22 January 2012 and Respondent 5 by a 37-years old holy man (bābā) who likewise believes that people should accept that things happened as they did and that it would be better to leave the situation as it is. A 24-year old restaurant waiter who also opines that the temple as well as the mosque should stay in their current location put it in strong words: “Houses you can move, but temples not, either Hindu or Muslim.”.268 Besides extrinsic reasons for keeping the situation as it is, intrinsic reasons might also be mentioned such as by the 19-year old weaver boy who gives as a reason for not changing the situation “We are happy the way we live.”.269 It is worthy of mention that some interviewees and respondents do approve of changes in the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque on the condition that both the Hindu and Muslim communities approve of it.
According to him, this first step would be to stop denying ‘their’ fault of the past (in other words, the role of their forefathers in demolishing the temple). This would Respondent 68 Respondent 63 Respondent 4 Interview with Mr. Pramod Yadav, Dashashvamedh, 4 February 2012 automatically lead to their humbleness and kindness (i.e., giving up their claim to the mosque and allowing Hindus to have the full right to the whole area).
About 14% of the respondents insisted, in line with Mr. Narendra Iyengar, that the mosque should be moved to another location without mentioning any conditions with regard to the social consequences changing the location of the Gyanvapi mosque might have. A 50-year old man who by profession begs for alms turns the argument around, ignoring the conflict and riots that might lead from a change in the situation and instead emphasizing that by separating the temple and mosque a “long existing conflict and enmity can be resolved.”.272 This is corroborated by a 38-year old female street hawker/cleaner who holds that it would bring satisfaction amongst people and a decrease in conflict between people. Interestingly, she estimates that around 90% of all Hindus agree that the mosque should be displaced, preferably sooner than later. A 35-year old male sweeper is very vigorous in his statement: “The mosque should be displaced from there at any cost.”.273 A 40-year old male boatman is much milder and considerate of the Muslim ‘other’, although he is also of the opinion that the mosque should be displaced, he maintains that it should be displaced to “some location where good number of persons of that community live.”.274 It is interesting to mention that two 16-year old female students also favoured changing the situation: “According to Islamic mythology, there must be difference of 10 footsteps between a temple and a mosque. So that it will be better if the mosque will be away with only 10 footsteps.”.275 It seems that although not everyone agrees and one lady asserts that 90% of all Hindus want the mosque to move to another location, Hindus are quite neutral towards change. Respondents and interviewees are well aware of the destructive consequences of a change and many mention this as a reason to leave the situation as it is. Muslims are more opposed to a change in the situation, and both groups do not seem to expect huge benefits from a change in the situation. To some, the only condition under which change is possible is when both groups approve of it.
Respondent 21 Respondent 28 Respondent 20 Respondent 85
8.2 Suggested changes and solutions Besides wanting to either change the situation or not, many respondents as well as interviewees came up with suggestions to improve the situation. They made suggestions for improvements in the situation of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque, but also in the relationship between Hindus and Muslims.
8.2.1 The Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque Many respondents and interviewee suggest adjustments in the situation of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque without changing their co-existence.
Suggestions were made mainly concerning the facilities, the security and safety, and concerning ‘beautification’. A 29-year old man who works in services proposes there should be “sufficient and effective traffic management.”.276 This idea is shared by some others who advocate separate ways and entrances for the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque. The 29-year old man in services also recommends to make more adequate arrangements for worshipping and praying for both Hindus and Muslims. The 38-year old female street hawker/cleaner suggests that in case the mosque is displaced a rest house can be made in its place.
The safety and security around the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque is also
of concern to some respondens. A 18-year old student has a very simple wish:
“Safety, no more bomb blasts.”.277 The request of the guesthouse owner is more modest, she wishes that there are no prohibitions on praying and worshipping for either Hindus and Muslims in “in the name of security.”.278 A 30-year old salesman is disturbed by the security difficulties visitors of the temple face, like a 44-year old man who also works services he simply asks for all security arrangements to be removed. According to Mr. Sudeep Pandey, also a PAC security agent this, is an
unreasonable demand in the light of the current situation:
In [the] future, there not will be any need of the security forces only if all the people will be practicing the knowledge of humanity. It can be imagined only to witness such situation only when people will understand [what] humanity means, when morality grows up.... according to my understanding the number of the security person will be needed to increase in average as [the] population increases.279 Respondent 10 Respondent 23 Interview with Mrs. Kavita Bhardwaj, Dashashvamedh, 10 December 2011 Interview with Mr. Sudeep Pandey, Dasadhvamedh, 11 December 2011 Two students, a 21-year old man and a 17-year old woman, ask attention for the way women are treated by security agents. In their experience security agents misbehave and their behaviour towards women is intolerable.
Lastly, a 35-year old male weaver proposes to ‘beautify’ the temple and the mosque.
A 64-year old male retired teacher describes the same wish poetically: “Both must be beautiful so as to bring up the marriage embrace of both better.”.280 Finally, some people suggest it should become a national monument. A 38-year old businessman would like it to be under the Archaeology Department who can promote it so that “all the world communities can come and see.”.281 A 57-year old businessman wants to convert it to a “super model of art, keeping the view of its importance of historical, cultural and tourist aspects.”.282 Moreover, Mr. Ganesh Kumar, one of the students interviewed, suggests that Hindus and Muslims could give up both holy structures and construct something new that is open to people of all faiths, such as a charity, school or hospital. Mr. Irfan Malik, the retired mason, has a similar idea; he suggests building a hospital or a park that is open to everybody irrespective of their religious group.
8.2.2 Hindus and Muslims Besides suggestions concerning the physical location of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque, many respondents and interviewees note that perhaps a bigger change would be necessary in the people: in changing their thinking and in creating harmony between Hindus and Muslims. A 22-year old male student formulates the wish that people will be united whereas a 29-year old woman working in government service confidently states that there will be harmony. Mr. Rafi Anzaari, the school head, is also convinced that communal harmony will increase in the future as people nowadays understand that it is better to live peacefully and harmoniously. Social worker Mr. Shekhar Mallah maintains that relationships between people will automatically become better. Mr. Irfan Malik agrees, attributing this to the new generation who in his view is wiser than the previous generation. In the experience of a 32-year old businessman social distinctions such as caste and religion are of less importance to the new generation, which will contribute to their behaving in a more loving and harmonious way. Ms. Asha Jaisawal, who was interviewed together with three other students, gives an example. One of her best friends is a Muslim girl. This friendship is natural to her because friends respect each other. Her friend is in love Respondent 26 Respondent 50 Respondent 75 with a Hindu boy and she facilitates contact between them if necessary (i.e., because of difficulties mixed-religious couples face with for example parents). She rightly
[This is] a step I have initiated from my level! It may be a small effort but at a place it seems to be very important!... And these things are interconnected! It seems to be small but in future it would definitely bring some big result at some point!283 Not all respondents and interviewees are convinced that relationship between religious communities will be more harmonious in the future. The chāī walā attributes this mainly to Muslims. According to him, “Their heart is still black.”, by which he means that they are not as respectful and soft-hearted as Hindus and in contrary still have the tendency to be aggressive: “It is inherited in their culture.”.284 The sārī seller makes a sharp distinction between personal and business relations, alleging that whereas personal Hindu-Muslim relations will continue to be poor, the future of business relations between Hindus and Muslims are bright. As discussed previously (in sections 6.3.1 and 6.4.3), he BHU professor remarks that the reason for the good business relationships between Hindus and Muslims is their interdependency in the sārī industry; if this interdependency breaks the cohesiveness might break too.
Some respondents and interviewees come up with suggestions to improve the situation between Hindus and Muslims. A 28-year old businessman opposes a change in the co-existence of the temple and mosque because of the communal conflict that might arise from it; instead he thinks people should change their thinking. A 57-year old businessman agrees that to improve the social atmosphere the key is to work on better social relations between people from various communities. He eloquently expresses the wish for “an atmosphere of cultural grace through mutual consensus and brotherhood!”.285 A 44-year old man who works in services is of the opinion that people should put their efforts and energies in mutual dialogues to achieve their goal of mutual consensus and brotherhood. The head of the madrasa also believes in the strength of dialogue. As described in the section 6.1.3, he actively organizes meetings with dialogues between people from various religious backgrounds. In his view, such developments in Varanasi, being the ‘religious’ capital, have an influence throughout India: “If we start a dialogue in Varanasi that will go to all over India and Interview with Mr. Abbas Anzaari, Ms. Asha Jaisawal, Mr. Vikram Desai, & Mr. Ganesh Kumar, BHU, 17 November 2011 Interview with Mr. Kamal Rao, Khalispura, 14 January 2012 Repondent 75 that will have a very good impression in the whole of country!”.286 A 24-year old student believes people should learn about each other’s religions to create an environment of understanding and brotherhood. A 24-year old male waiter agrees and adds that people should talk about their religions and celebrate festivals together. The advocate recognizes a mutual culture and mutual understanding between people in contemporary Varanasi and hopes people will continue striving for an atmosphere of openness towards one another.