Condemn the Statement by MP Ramcharan Bohra

Jan 22, 2024
Tags: Ajmer, Rajasthan, Mosque, Historical monument, Ramcharan Bohra, Communal Tensions
Related Issue: Places of Worship, Right to Freedom of Worship, Right to freedom of religion

MP Urged Not to Disturb Communal Harmony

MP asked to focus on improving the condition of the Government Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya Ajmer rather than targeting the historical monument “Dhai Din ka Jhonpra” 

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, strongly condemns the misleading and provocative statements made recently by BJP Member of Parliament Ramcharan Bohra regarding the archaeological monument, Dhai din ka Jhonpra in Ajmer. The PUCL sees this as a brazen act to disrupt the social harmony in Rajasthan, especially in Ajmer.

PUCL is shocked that Ramcharan Bohra, who holds a crucial public position as a Member of Parliament, made such statements during a programme,of the University of Rajasthan,which was chaired by the Governor of Rajasthan, Sh Kalraj Mishra and in the presence of the VC of the UOR, Jaipur on January 8, 2024. He claimed that the Dhai din ka Jhonpra in Ajmer was a Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya during the rule of Raja Vigrahraj Chauhan, which was destroyed by Qutbuddin Aibak in 1294 and should therefore be reconstructed as Dhai Din ka Jhonpra restoring the glory of that period and of Sanskrit. Bohra also wrote a letter to the Indian government making similar demands and has attempted to politicise the issue.

Bohra’s statement is an attempt to create religious discord in the city of religious harmony, Ajmer. Ajmer has been a center for religious coexistence where people of various religions and sects have lived together, making it an interfaith city. The Dargah of Khwaja Sahib attracts devotees from around the world, and Pushkar, known for the Brahma Temple, is considered a historic pilgrimage site for Hindus. Churches, Gurudwaras, Parsi Agiaries (Temple of Fire), and Jain Tirths in Ajmer highlight the cultural diversity of the city.

Bohra’s attempt to twist historical facts and give a political color to ancient sculptures is not only a distortion of history but also reveals how anything can be stated, without any accountability. It is not known to the MP that Qutbuddin Aibak died in 1210 AD, while he claims that Qutbuddin Aibak declared the Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya in Kotodara in 1294 AD. It is a fact that Aibak never came to Ajmer, and during his time, Ajmer was under the rule of Iltutmish. Claiming the Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya in the 12th century is also historically inaccurate as there was no tradition of language-based study centers during that period. Many Jain scriptures confirm that it was a centre for Jain studies at that time. The important question to ask is whether India in the 21st century will now get into the project of razing to the ground old monuments and restore them as it suits us.

The Dhai din ka Jhonpra near the Dargah have stood as a historical structure for centuries and are a protected site by the Archaeological Survey of India. Thousands of tourists from India and abroad visit the site, appreciating the grandeur of Indian architecture.

We would also like to ask the MP Ramcharan Bohra whether he is unaware that the Indian Parliament in which he sits passed the Religious Places Act in 1991, prohibiting the alteration of the original form of all religious sites established in 1947.

PUCL is also aware that after the MP’s statement, some individuals attempted to enter the Dhai Din ka Jhonpra for reciting mantras, which was sensibly prevented by some conscientious individuals. This incident raises concerns that in the future, communal elements may try to increase animosity based on this statement.

PUCL believes that if the government and the MP genuinely want to promote Sanskrit education, they should focus on improving the conditions of the government Sanskrit Maha Vidyalaya and schools in Ajmer. Rajasthan has rarely seen such politics being done with regard to monuments, using the name of a historically renowned building is condemnable.

PUCL, Rajasthan, considers the statement of MP Ramcharan Bohra as a conspiracy to create communal tension in Ajmer and Rajasthan and strongly condemns it. The MP should immediately retract his statement.

Bhanwar Meghvanshi (President)
Anant Bhatnagar (General Secretary)
PUCL Rajasthan

The Places of Worship Act and its interpretation

The Places of Worship Act, 1991 under Section 3 bars the conversion of places of worship from one religion to another. 

Section 3 reads:

Bar of conversion of places of worship. No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof. 

Under Section 4 it also declares that the status of a place of worship shall be maintained as it was on 15 August, 1947. Section 4(1) reads: 

It is hereby declared that the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day.

The Supreme Court in the decision awarding all the land to the Hindu petitioners in the Ram Janambhoomi case (M siddique v Mahant Suresh), read this provision as an integral dimension of secularism.

The Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution. The law is hence a legislative instrument designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution. Non-retrogression is a foundational feature of the fundamental constitutional principles of which secularism is a core component. The Places of Worship Act is thus a legislative intervention which preserves non-retrogression as an essential feature of our secular values. 

It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court interprets this provision in the cases which come before it including the Gyanvapi mosque in Mathura whose status is now being adjudicated in violation of the Places of Worship Act as well ast the dicta of the Supreme Court.