Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, a BJP MP in Rajya Sabha on Thursday raised the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi land dispute issue of Mathura and demanded a law that would provide for the status quo to be scrapped.
Raising the issue through a zero hour mention, Harnath Singh Yadav described as "unconstitutional" the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991 that prohibits conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
While the act makes an exception to the legal case around the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, all legal disputes in courts over any other religious places are considered closed by the 1991 Act, he said.
"This provision not just violates the constitutional provision of the right of equity but also secularism, which is part of the constitutional preamble," he said. "It is strange that this law provides that no citizen can go against it to the courts. Nor can this law be challenged."
He said the law gives "legal sanctity" to the "forceful occupation of the Krishna Janmabhoomi and other religious places by foreign invaders".
"This arbitrary and unconstitutional law has deprived Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists of their right to practice and propagate their religion," he said.
Also, the 1991 law discriminates between Lord Ram and Lord Krishna as both are 'avatars' of Lord Vishnu.
"There cannot be two laws for the same acts and circumstances. Secondly, the doors of courts cannot be shut for citizens," he said. "This Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act is not just unconstitutional but also cruelty against religious sentiments of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. I demand this law be repealed immediately."
Some opposition party MPs objected to the zero-hour submission.
Raising a point of order, Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD said the 1991 Act was passed by Parliament to protect the idea of cordiality and harmony and the BJP MP has "opened pandora's box."
"The nation has suffered enough in the name of religious conflicts. Let's not disturb the social fabric of India," he said.
Deputy Chairman Harivansh however said there was no point of order and all notices of MPs are admitted by the Chairman as per Rajya Sabha rules and if anyone has an issue, they should write to him.
The issue figuring in Rajya Sabha follows Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya last week tweeting that preparations were underway for constructing a grand temple in Mathura on the lines of Ayodhya and Varanasi.
He is the first senior BJP leader holding a position in government to make such a statement in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly election in the state.
Mathura has a prominent mosque -- the Shahi Idgah -- located next to a temple, believed to be the site of the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The mosque has been at the centre of a legal battle for years with Hindu groups claiming that the Idgah was built on land where Lord Krishna was born.
The long-standing dispute was considered a settled matter following an October 1968 court-decreed agreement between the Trust that manages it and the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh. But this was revived in the wake of the Ayodhya agitation.
Hindu groups demand nullifying this agreement and handing over the entire temple-Idgah complex in Mathura.