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(This was first published on 24 May 2022. It has been republished from The Quint's archives over resumption of Gyanvapi mosque hearing.)
Commenting on a string of controversies such as Varanasi's Gyanvapi mosque and Mathura's Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah, eminent historian Professor Irfan Habib said that whenever a mosque or temple was built in the olden times, the stones of Buddhist viharas have also been found.
Habib, an Oxford University alumnus, and professor emeritus at the Aligarh Muslim University, further questioned if all temples and mosques where such stones are found will be destroyed.
Confirming and condemning that Aurangzeb did destroy temples, Habib asked what wrong will the government do now?
This comes amid the Gyanvapi mosque controversy.
‘These Are Stupid Things’: Irfan Habib on the Gyanvapi Controversy
"The Babri mosque was demolished in Ayodhya in 1992. No matter how you see it, the way for the temple was cleared. A new building can be built now. The Supreme Court has also given the land. Such things will continue," Habib said.
When asked if the Gyanvapi mosque controversy is being stirred in preparation for the 2024 general elections, Habib said, “I don’t know. I am a historian. What happens in the future is up to you.”
Built by Aurangzeb, after reportedly demolishing a temple rebuilt during Akbar's reigns, this mosque with a Sanskrit name is currently embroiled in controversy over claims of a shivling (a stone shaft, usually black or white, representing Lord Shiva) found in its premises.
Professor Irfan Habib stated that the temples of Banaras and Mathura, which were built by Raja Veer Singh Bundela during the reign of Jahangir, were destroyed by Aurangzeb.
However, the historian questioned, "Can you destroy what was made in the year 1670? This is against the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act."
He also pointed out that though ruckus is being created around the shivling, the petition filed in the Gyanvapi case had no mention of it earlier.
"There must be a process for calling something a shivling. Not everything can be called a shivling," he said.
Calling the controversies "stupid," Habib said, "Rana Kumbha has a big tower in Chittor. 'Allah' is written in Arabic on one of its stones. But it cannot be called a mosque. These are stupid things. Will Muslims say that this is a mosque and ask for it to be given to them?"
(With inputs from Mukesh Gupta.)