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Why the Places of Worship Act Must Be Preserved

  • Published
    17th Oct, 2023

Context:

The Allahabad high court has rejected a petition seeking the removal of the Shahi Idgah in Mathura viewing Places of Worship act, but the threat to it and other Muslim shrines elsewhere, including Varanasi, remains real.

Historical Context of the Places of Worship Act

  • Act's Emergence: Response to communal tensions, Rath Yatra, and Babri Masjid land acquisition. 1947 cutoff secures religious sites' status.
  • Debates in Parliament: Act prioritizes preserving religious diversity and secularism.
  • Upadhyay's Challenge: After citing 1947 cutoff raises concerns about protecting religious sites' integrity and preventing conversions.

Judicial Interpretation

  • Judicial Historical Role: Courts decide historical matters, as seen in Gyan Vapi case, relying on ASI reports, excluding non-ASI opinions.
  • Complex Multicultural Narratives: India's diverse history complicates understanding of religious sites. Gyan Vapi's history illustrates intricate layers of patronage.
  • Religious Desecration Dynamics: Multiple religions partook in temple desecration. Acknowledging this counters one-sided narratives of "barbaric invasions”.

The Adivasi Perspective

  • Adivasi Protection: Adivasis constitutionally safeguarded but vulnerable, struggle to preserve their sacred spaces. The Act aids in reclamation and protection.
  • Mutual Accords for Harmony: Act allows pre-enactment mutual accords, fostering amicable resolutions. Sikh-Muslim collaboration in Punjab showcases communal harmony.
  • Secularism and Legal Duty: Upholding the Act is a constitutional commitment. It affirms India's secular values, prioritizing religious diversity and coexistence.
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