Much ado about a mosque – Prafull Goradia

Related image

Similarly, it is difficult to think of a masjid without a minaret or several of them. As it is well-known, the function of a minaret is to enable a muezzin to stand as high as possible before he issues the azaan or the call for worship. The higher he can stand, the greater the distance his voice or baang would carry and more would be the worshippers, who would attend the prayer. In the days where there were no loudspeakers, the height of the minaret was most crucial. An outstanding example of height is the masjid built by Aurangzeb on the banks of Ganga at Varanasi, which has two extremely tall minarets.

Taking a foreign example, the big mosque at Istanbul was earlier a church of Hagia Sophia. There, the church was converted into a masjid by raising four minarets as tall as the pinnacle of the dome. In rural Anatolia and its wheat lands, most masjids have a single minaret. But a minaret was there nevertheless. Or else, the baang would not carry.

Was the edifice Babri maqbara rather than a masjid? If so, why is the Sunni Personal Law Board making so much hue and cry about the structure and the land on which it stood?

When this writer visited Ayodhya, he had heard a great deal about the Babri Masjid, as if it was some historic piece of architecture. This was early in 1991. The writer was surprised at the uncomely sight of this enormous rough-looking trinity of domes. More surprising was the total absence of anything like a minaret. This made him suspicious enough to enquire one by one, from three passing Muslim gentlemen, as to whether there was a mehrab or a mimbar inside, or a wuzooh for a wash before the prayer. A few minutes earlier, the writer was categorically informed by a skull cap-wearing gentleman that he could not go inside, hence the queries.

Whoever the writer talked to, including two shopkeepers, referred to it as the ‘Babri’ Masjid. The writer had not earlier, or even later, come across a mosque named after any individual. His suspicion continued about the nature of the edifice in the absence of a minaret and the presence of the name Babri. On subsequent contemplation, the writer felt that perhaps, the edifice was a maqbara of Mir Baqi, one of the military commanders of Babar in the latter’s invasion of India. The date of the building has been consistently given as 1528 AD.

Much ado about a mosqueBabar won the First Battle of Panipat in April 1526. He and his immediate men were new to India and were generally busy establishing their rule at Agra. How could Mir Baqi get the opportunity to visit Ayodhya; have the Ram temple demolished and have the huge Babri structure constructed — all in a matter of two years? In those days, five centuries ago, everything had to be done manually — breaking, building and all. It must have taken longer than two years. Babar died in 1530 while beseeching Allah, the merciful, to save the life of his ailing son Humayun.

Taking all these circumstances, — the lack of minaret and the presence of the name Babri among others — could it be possible that Mir Baqi did not forget the King he was beholden to, and admiring of? He took his time to build this maqbarah, probably larger than any in India, as a compact building in the loving memory of Zaheeruddin Mohammad Babar. In short, was the edifice Babri maqbarah rather than a masjid? If so, why is the Sunni Personal Law Board making so much song and dance about the edifice and the land on which it stood? Up to a dozen of maqbarahs were demolished under the British rule in order to lay out Delhi’s Golf Course.

Incidentally, Sir Arnold Toynbee had visited Delhi and Bombay in the 1950s to deliver the Azad Memorial Lectures. This was at the personal invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru. During the course of his lectures, Arnold expressed surprise at having seen the masjid with tall minarets, as we mentioned above, on the banks of the Ganga, still standing. This despite India’s independence, at the holiest of holy places of the Hindus. He went on to say that on his recent visit to Warsaw in Poland, he saw the cathedral in that city as a Roman Catholic edifice. When the Russians had conquered Warsaw a century or more ago, they had converted the earlier Catholic cathedral into a Russian orthodox church. The poles could not tolerate this but were helpless. When they regained independence towards the end of World War I, they demolished the Russian church and rebuilt their own.

This pattern of behaviour was in evidence elsewhere too. Several wars were fought during the 1990s after the collapse of the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, particularly the 1991-1995 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This was the biggest conflict in Europe since the World War II, causing massive terror and brutality with approximately 150,000 deaths and several million people forcibly resettled. Although the Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims, who fought this war, were Europeans of Slavonic ancestry, they had significant and irreconcilable differences in religion. The Serbs are eastern-orthodox Christians, the Croats were Roman Catholics, and the Bosnian Muslims are Slavs Islamised after the Turkish conquest. The Serbs have always defended Christian Europe from invaders, most notably the Ottoman Turks. The heroic Serbian defence in the Battle of Kosovo against the Ottoman invaders in 1389 AD stands out as a landmark.

Conquering militias or armies in this 1992 inter-Yugoslav conflict destroyed the enemy’s religious symbols and built their own to symbolically mark the territory. For example, the capital city of what is today called the ‘Serb Republic’ of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was ethnically cleansed of all its numerous historic and newer mosques, with the Serbs also expelling the local Muslims, ostensibly in retribution for centuries of Ottoman humiliation.

Not only that, the Orthodox Serbs destroyed about 200 Catholic churches in Krajina in Croatia during their four year occupation of the town. This was Serb revenge on atrocities against the orthodox Church by the Croat Nazi puppet state during World War II. The Catholic Croats had then murdered over a 100 orthodox priests and three bishops, massacred about 1,000 Serbs in a town Glina and also razed its orthodox Church of the nativity.

Similar is the tale of Córdoba in Spain. It was originally a cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) but was conquered by the invading Moors and turned into a mosque in 784 AD by Abd al-Rahman. It was reconquered by 1236 AD by King Ferdinand III of Castile during the Reconquista. The centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. The kings who followed added further Christian features.

(The writer is a well-known columnist and an author)

Courtesy The Pioneer , 28 December 2018

Significant Reduction in Industrial Pollution in Ganga: Environment Ministry

Significant Reduction in Industrial Pollution in Ganga: Environment Ministry

‘Closure Orders Issued to 150 Grossly Polluting Units not Responding to Installation of Ocems’: Javadekar

 The Government has underlined that there has been a significant reduction in industrial pollution in River Ganga.  The problem of black liquor discharge and spent wash has been largely controlled.  According to the last assessment in 2012, the total waste water generation and its organic load in terms of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) from 764 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPI) was 501 MLD and 131 tonnes per day. Conservative estimates say that discharge from industries has been brought down by 125 MLD. It is estimated that the BOD load reduction resulting from units which have achieved ZLD norms in distillery and pulp & paper sectors, apart from those which are permanently closed, will be about 30 tonnes per day.

Addressing a press conference here today, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, said that there has been substantial progress in installation of Online Continuous Effluent Monitoring Systems (OCEMS). Out of 764 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPI), 514 units have already installed Online Continuous Effluent Monitoring System (OCEMS), while 94 are in the process.  However, the Minister said that closure orders have been issued to 150 remaining units that have not responded to installation of OCEMS.  Responses of 6 other units are being examined. Steps are also being taken to establish connectivity of OCEMS with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) server.

The Central Pollution Control Board had formulated an Action Plan for abatement of industrial pollution in Ganga main stem states, covering five key industrial sectors –  sugar, paper and pulp, distillery, textile and tannery, with the twin objectives of reducing effluent generation and organic load. CPCB is directly monitoring the progress of implementation of Action Plans in sugar, paper and pulp, distillery, while progress in other two sectors is being facilitated by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.

CPCB carried out inspections of 130 industries since December last year to assess progress in implementation of Action Plans.  The 130 industries included 48 pulp & paper, 54 sugar and 28 distilleries units.  The inspections were specifically mandated to confirm the facts relating to conservation of water, reduction in waste water generation and pollution load.  In the process of inspections, public opinion was also taken into consideration.

List of 150 Industry

CPCB Report

-Ministry of Environment and Forests, 20-January, 2016

Govt asks public, NRIs to contribute to Clean Ganga Fund

Govt asks public, NRIs to contribute to Clean Ganga Fund

With surface cleaning of River Ganga’s mainstream set to begin next year, Government has urged public and NRIs to contribute towards the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF).

The Government has until now received approximately Rs 88 crore in the form of donations in CGF and will require more money as the cleaning activity gets underway – most probably from January, 2016, according to Union Water Resources Ministry officials.

The CGF was set up over a year ago.

“We have the action plan for cleaning Ganga ready and will begin the work with entry-level activities. Cleaning the river is an ongoing process and will require funds. Hence, we urge the public to contribute towards the CGF. This will also give tax exemption to donors,” secretary in the ministry, Shashi Shekhar, said.

“Out of the total fund received until now, bigger chunk has come from private players (CSR), while donations from general public and NRIs have been less,” Shekhar noted.

He said the government has the action plan ready now and will share the details of how the works will be carried out will be put on the Ministry’s website.

“We will ask people…Can every Indian contribute Rs 10 per month for the purpose? It is not a big thing. Even if 20 crore people give us Rs 10, we get Rs 200 crore. If every Indian-American contributes 1$ a month, we will get 10 million dollars. We will make such an appeal. We will make appeals on website, through print advertisements,” the official added.

The Government will carry out entry-level activities in four parts with surface cleaning being first of it.

Three other activities include construction/repairing of ghats along the river stretch, construction/repairing crematoria and recycling sewage water flowing into the river from over 3000 villages on the banks of the river.

According to officials, 10,000 to 50,000 litres of sewage water flows into the river from each of the villages daily.

“We will share with people details on the activities and amount spent on the same online annually,” Shekhar said.

The Union Cabinet had given its nod to set up CGF for voluntary contributions from residents of the country, NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin and others to harness their enthusiasm to contribute towards conservation of the river in September last year.

The government had announced that the fund would be managed by a Trust to be headed by the Finance Minister, and the secretariat of the Trust will be set up in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation under the Clean Ganga Mission Director.

The funds would be utilised for various activities relating to cleaning up of the Ganga, including setting up of waste treatment plants, conservation of biotic diversity of the river, and development of public amenities, besides activities such as Ghat redevelopment and Research and Development and innovative projects.

-06 December 2015 | PTI | New Delhi