'Stop making provocative remarks': priests' body to Hindu, Muslim groups amid Gyanvapi row

By PTI

MATHURA: A body of temple priests has urged Hindu and Muslim groups not to give provocative statements, saying it would adversely hit the tourism sector in Mathura and Varanasi.

“After spoiling the atmosphere in Varanasi and Mathura, not only ‘Tirath Purohits’ (priests) will suffer but traders and people engaged directly or indirectly in the tourist industry would also suffer,” Mahesh Pathak, national president of the Akhil Bharatiya Tirath Purohit Mahasabha, said while talking to reporters here.

He said already the economy of both cities have been hit badly by the covid pandemic.

He condemned alleged provocative statements by AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

According to the priest body head, Hindus are also not lagging behind in making such statement.

As their statements may spoil the atmosphere, these should be stopped, he said.

Owaisi on Monday asserted he will not let the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, where a court-mandated videography survey has been completed, meet the fate of the Babri Masjid that was demolished in December 1992.

The Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad said he will continue to speak on the Gyanvapi masjid issue, which he termed as an attempt to weaken the Constitution, as he was not scared of either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath.

Addressing a rally at Vadgam in Gujarat, where Assembly polls are due by the year-end, Owaisi said the accusation that the AIMIM by fielding its candidates will hurt the chances of the opposition Congress to win the elections in the BJP-ruled state was misplaced.

The president of the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) said people question him for speaking on the issue of Gyanvapi mosque.

“I will speak because I have not sold my ‘jameer’ (conscience), nor will I ever do so. I speak because I am only scared of Allah and not any Modi or Yogi. I speak because the Constitution that was framed by Babasaheb Ambedkar gives me the freedom of expression,” he said.

The AIMIM leader said he will not let the Gyanvapi mosque meet the fate of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya that was demolished nearly three decades ago.

Owaisi said he will not be deterred by criticism directed at him for protesting against the court order directing a survey of the medieval-era mosque in Varanasi.

“I am pained (by the survey) because the Indian Constitution is being weakened, the judgement of the Supreme Court is being ignored, and those who question me should read section 4(2) of the 1991 law (the Places of Worship Act),” he said.

The Act prohibits filing of any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for a conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947.

A court on Monday directed the Varanasi district administration to seal the spot in the Gyanvapi masjid complex where a Shivling was reportedly found during a court-mandated videography survey, which concluded after three days.

The mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Varanasi court is hearing a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily prayers before the idols on its outer walls.

Owaisi said “bhakts of Godse (Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi)” are spreading hatred in the country against Muslims by invoking issues like hijab, job jihad and others.

The AIMIM leader sought people’s support for his party for the upcoming elections and said the Congress, which is out of power in the state for nearly three decades now, was not in a position to speak on behalf of Muslims of Gujarat.

“People say Owaisi and the AIMIM (by contesting polls) will benefit the BJP. I would like to ask the Congress party as to when you last formed a government in Gujarat? Owaisi and the AIMIM were not there all these years, so why were you defeated?” he asked.

The Lok Sabha MP questioned the Congress over defection of its MLAs to the ruling BJP and having only three Muslim legislators in its fold in a House of 182.

“Remember, you (Muslims) cannot change the government, but using your votes, you can help our representatives win and go to the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha to become your voice,” he said.

Owaisi is in Gujarat to make preparations for the Assembly elections.

He has said the AIMIM intends to contest the upcoming polls and the party is in the process of figuring out the seats on which it will field its candidates.

His visit comes at a time when several office-bearers of the Gujarat AIMIM have quit their posts accusing the state unit of working for the benefit of the BJP.