What is Shree Krishna Janmabhoomi Case? History that led to 1968 Settlement Explained

It was at the time of demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 that the karsevaks were heard as saying “Ye to bas jhanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai” (Ayodhya is just a teaser. Kashi and Mathura are left). After the Supreme Court’s decision on Babri-Ram Janambhoomi case, many people thought that the issue of Temple-Mosque will subside. But, it is sheer irony of how religion is important in a secular nation like India. BJP leader Late Sushma Swaraj admitted in public in Bhopal on April 14, 2020 that the temple movement (Ram temple) was ‘purely political in nature and had nothing to do with religion’. Probably the statement stands to be relevant in current times as well.

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A group of Hindus moved to a Mathura civil court earlier claiming that the Idgah mosque built during the rule of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, in 1669-70, is the exact birthplace of Krishna. The compromise made between the Hindus and Muslims regarding the disputed site in 1968 was not legally valid as it was obtained through false submissions. According to a report in the Indian Express, the petitioners challenged the land deal as “illegal and void ab initio (not legally binding)” and maintained that the land was vested in another trust, Shree Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust.

“Every inch of land of Katra Keshav Dev (as the place is known historically) is sacred for devotees of Lord Shree Krishna and (the) Hindu community,” the petition said and sought the “removal of encroachment and superstructure illegally raised” on it “ Committee of Management of alleged Trust Shahi Masjid Idgah with the consent of Sunni Central Board of Waqf”. 

As per the plea, “the original karagar (prison) – i.e. the birthplace of Lord Krishna – lies beneath the construction raised ” the mosque trust, a fact it claimed would become evident “after excavation”. However, the Civil Court declined to entertain the plea citing the bar on admitting the case under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 on September 30, 2020.

Aurangzeb and Katra Keshav Dev

In the case of Mathura, petitioners allege that it was Aurangazeb, a descendant of Babur, who destroyed part of a temple to construct the Idgah mosque.

“That it is matter of fact and history that Aurangzeb ruled over the country from 31.07.1658  to 3.03.1707 AD and he being staunch follower of Islam had issued orders for demolition of large number of Hindu religious places and temples including the temple standing at the birth place of Lord Shree Krishna at Katra Keshav Dev, Mathura in the year 1669-70 AD. The army of Aurangzeb partly succeeded to demolish Keshav Dev Temple and a construction was forcibly raised showing the might of power and said construction was named as Idgah Mosque.” 

They further argue that there are official records from the Mughal administration from 1670 that establish this claim. Also, there is evidence of temple demolition Aurangzeb from records of European travelers, like the Italian Niccola Manucci who wrote about the Mughal court in his book Storia do Mogar.

idgah mosque
The Idgah mosque in 1949. Credit: Photo Division, government of India

Krishnajanmsthan-Idgah Dispute Timeline

According to the filed petition;

  • 1770 – Marathas defeated Mughals and drove them out of Mathura, removing all mosques and restoring temples.
  • 1803 – Britoshers defeated Marathas and took over the region.
  • 1815 – The 13.37 acres of land was later put to auction East India Company and sold to Raja Patni Maal of Benaras. The dispute over land continued with Muslims taking the matter to the Court.
  • 1932 – Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of descendants of Raja Patni Maal
  • 1944 – The legal heirs of Raja Patni Maal transferred the title of the land for a consideration of Rs 13,400 to Hindu Mahasabha members Madan Mohan Malviya, Goswami Ganesh Dutt and Bhikhen Lalji Aattrey.
  • 1951 – Jugal Kishore Birla created the Shree Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust to which the deed of the land was transferred. Birla had intended to build a temple for Krishna on the site, but failed and the property became defunct in 1958.
  • 1958 – Formation of Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh
  • 1968 – The settlement between the two parties was reached which was decreed the court in 1974. The compromise divided the land and asked the Seva Sangh and the management of the Shahi Masjid Idgah to stay away from each other’s sections.

The matter reached the courtroom several times after this, but it was after the verdict on Ayodhya-Babri Masjid case that the issue was revived. 

idgah
A picture of Krishna janmabhoomi taken in 1988, with the Idgah mosque next door. Credit: Bhadani at the English language Wikipedia / CC BY-SA

In Indian law, a deity is considered a legal entity, though a minor. The person or body responsible for the management of its properties is called a “shebait”. In the Ayodhya verdict, the Supreme Court said a third person/devotee could file a suit as a friend of the deity only if it could be established that the shebait had acted against the interests of the deity. In the case of the Ayodhya deity, the Supreme Court ruled that Ram Lalla had not been represented properly for decades in the dispute. Hence the suit filed members of the Sangh Parivar in the capacity of a friend of the deity was sustainable. In the Mathura case, the same strategy has been used. The plaint said that the trust became defunct after 1958 and the Seva Sansthan failed to protect the interests of the deity and his properties. Therefore, the intervention of devotees as friends of the deity was required.

It will be an observation to see the role-play of this issue in framing the political agenda of 2024 general elections in India.

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