A magnificent Krishna Janambhoomi temple in Mathura was a recurrent theme for the ruling BJP in the run-up to the assembly polls, reports Nitin Kumar.
The Supreme Court's verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya on November 9, 2019, settled the issue by giving ownership of the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya to the Ram Janambhoomi Trust.
Does the verdict have a bearing on other centuries-old disputes regarding temples and masjids?
The answer lies in the statements of former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Vinay Katiyar, one of the key accused (now exculpated) in the demolishing of the Babri Masjid, by calling for temple construction in Kashi and Mathura soon after the apex court's decision.
With the ongoing elections in Uttar Pradesh, the pitch for separating the Kashi-Mathura shrines from masjids and constructing grand temples has gained traction with UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya tweeting: 'Ayodhya aur Kashi bhavya mandir nirman jaari hai, Mathura ki tayyari hai (grand temples are being constructed in Ayodhya and Kashi, and Mathura will be next).'
Others followed suit. "Ayodhya-Babri sirf jhaanki thi (which used to be 'hai'), Kashi-Mathura ab baaqi hai," said the BJP's Mathura district functionary Vishal Agarwal, standing with a group of five people, in Mathura.
Agarwal, who comes from a family of a long line of Sangh Parivar members, feels the 'rule of the Mughals' came to an end after the BJP came to power and the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is its proof.
"With the Ayodhya temple, the BJP has fulfilled one of its key promises since the establishment of the party in 1980. The day is not far when the same would be done in Kashi and Mathura," said Agarwal, sure of a temple being constructed if the BJP returns to power in UP.
With an almost 80 per cent population of Hindus and over 17 per cent Muslims, a Krishna Janambhoomi temple in Mathura was a recurrent theme for the ruling BJP in the run-up to the assembly polls.
"We don't have any problem in the construction of a temple but what would it cost," asked Shantanu Chaudhary, a hotel owner on the Mathura-Vrindavan road. "Will the idgah be demolished?"
The Shahi Idgah mosque stands next to the Krishna Janambhoomi temple in Mathura.
Many in and around the village of Mathura district don't have a problem if, in an Ayodhya-like judgment, the mosque is transferred to a different location.
"Lord Krishna was born at that site thousands of years ago. The mosque was built by Aurangzeb a few hundred years ago. If you shift it, it shouldn't be a problem," said Aarti Singh, a Krishna devotee, who has come for darshan.
But elsewhere in UP, it has scant resonance as an election issue.
Sanjay Kumar, a driver in Pratapgarh district, said: "We have many other issues to vote for in the election. A temple in Mathura is not one of them."
Though BJP workers are trying to woo voters across the state with their promise of temples in Ayodhya, Kashi, and Mathura, people feel that they are happy if temples are created but say their votes will be on the issues of education, healthcare, and employment.
In Mathura, too, not all want a temple at the cost of a mosque.
Trilok Yadav, a teaseller near the temple gate, feels that the temple and mosque together is the symbol of brotherhood.
"Two people have constructed a home adjacent to each other. Who knows, our ancestors could have asked Muslims to construct this mosque near the temple as a symbol of love," said Yadav, who has been selling tea at the same location for 30 years.
"Today we are living in a democracy. Demolition will tarnish the social fabric of the country."
For Hindus and Muslims, these sites are consecrated ground.
"This is a sacred place for us all. We don't have a problem in the construction of grand temples but not by removing mosques," said Mohammad Irshad.
Mohammad Waseem feels Mathura is a symbol of brotherhood, where Hindus and Muslims have lived for years with love and respect.
"Extremists are trying to widen the gap between us and our Hindu brothers for political gains. But this will not work."
"Any political party which tries to pit us against each other will face consequences in the upcoming polls."
Kali Charan Sharma, who runs a hotel outside the Janambhoomi temple, said the BJP would reap the benefits of raising the issue of the Mathura temple.
He is worried what will happen to the locals of the city who will face the brunt of its heat.
"They will make this their gravy train for the coming decade unless people understand their intentions to divide and rule."
However, BJP leaders, big or small, have been doing their bit in mobilising people by promising that if the BJP comes back to power, it will construct a grand Krishna temple.
But they are facing resistance from opposition parties -- the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance -- which is urging people to not fall for the BJP's fake propaganda and rising above caste and religion and vote on issues of farm distress, employment, and infrastructure development.
"They want to shift people's attention to caste and religion to win election but people will not fall for their fake promises and vote on issues of employment and development," said RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary.
After Union Home Minister Amit Shah's recent statement during the election campaign in UP that SP chief Akhilesh Yadav will not be able to stop the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, a Rajya Sabha MP of the SP said: "If Akhilesh Yadav comes to power, the temple will be made faster and better."
Temple donation theft will then stop, he added.