Home Muslim culture Voting bank policy turns symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity into powder keg

Voting bank policy turns symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity into powder keg

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By MK Ashoka

Bangalore, Aug 27 (IANS): Even after court intervention, the Karnataka Datta Peetha line in Chikkamagalur district as well as the Malali Mosque line in Dakshina Kannada remain communal fault lines in the state. Local residents and political activists agree that the situation is volatile and anything can happen on these issues.

Datta Peetha located in Bababudangiri hills in Chikkamagalur district has been described as the Ayodhya of BJP in Karnataka. The shrine has been a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Muslims.

The BJP, however, demands that the site be declared a Hindu temple.

Only one bench of the High Court passed an order quashing the order of the Congress government which provided for the appointment of a mujawar for the shrine. However, this order was challenged in court by Syed Ghouse Mohiyuddin Shakhadri.

The government informed the court that Datta Peetha will be run by a panel of Hindus and Muslims. It has also been argued that the decision will be subject to the court order. The next hearing will be on September 5.

Shakhadri told IANS that Hindu organizations require the appointment of an “archak” at the shrine.

“Oral explanations will not suffice and they do not hold. They must produce proof of the presence of the priest before 1975. In Sanatan dharma, an archak will be appointed to conduct aarti, pooja of a deity. Not for graves “There are four graves inside and outside there is a cemetery. The whole controversy is about politics, not religion,” Shakhadri says.

He states that the Places of Worship Act 1991 states that pre-1947 rituals must be followed as in temples. There is no document proving that there was an archak here before 1947.

Shadab Ali Khan, the congressional adviser for Chikkamagaluru Corporation, said Hindus and Muslims jointly offer prayers and worship at the Bababudangiri shrine. “In 1993-94, the problem was created by BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi.”

“The controversy could have ended 20 years ago. It was only kept alive for the politics of vote banks. We want to see Hindus and Muslims praying together like they did earlier,” did he declare.

Prior to 1964, the shrine was revered by Hindus and Muslims. It symbolized Sufi culture and the unity of Hindu and Islamic cultures. The shrine was known as Shri Guru Dattatreya Bababudan Swamy Dargah. What was a place of pilgrimage for both faiths has become a disputed site between Hindus and Muslims.

Hindus regard the hill as the final resting place of Dattatreya, Muslims believe the dargah to be one of the earliest centers of Sufism in South India. They believe that the Sufi saint Dada Hayat Mirkalandar lived there for years.

The Karnataka High Court in September overturned the order appointing a Muslim maulvi as a priest in Datta Gurupeetha. The ruling BJP called it a victory for Hindus. The court had overturned the appointment of Muslim Maulvi Syed Ghouse Mohiyuddin Shakhadri to perform poojas at Datta Peetha.

The appointment was made by the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah, following the report of the high-level committee headed by retired judge HN Nagmohan Das.

The recent order by the BJP government to form an administrative committee to govern and administer the shrine has also sparked controversy.

The committee would be made up of four members from the Hindu and Muslim communities. It is alleged that this is a ploy by the ruling party to strip Shakadri of the shrine rights owned by the minority community.

Along with the BJP, VHP, RSS, many organizations involved in the movement over the years are challenging the syncretic culture of the sanctuary. A recent government ordinance also allows Datta Jayanthi, Datta Mala as well as the annual Urus Sufi.

Regardless of the controversy, local pre-harvest coffee growers visit the shrine and worship there. Fakir Bababudan, a 17th century Sufi saint from Yemen who settled at the shrine, is credited with planting the first coffee seeds in the Indian subcontinent.

With the discovery of a temple structure on April 21 during the renovation of the Malali Mosque, controversy has surfaced in the hotspot Dakshina Kannada neighborhood which has made national headlines for revenge killings. Following the controversy, the court ordered the management of the mosque to stop the work.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had petitioned the court for the appointment of a court commissioner to inspect the Jumma Masjid in the town of Malali near Mangaluru. Disputing the VHP’s request, the management of the Assayed Abdullahil Madani Mosque filed a petition.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Shobha Karandlaje, said historical mistakes need to be rectified in the country. She also pointed out that the Union Home Ministry is carefully watching the developments related to the Malali Mosque.