Islamic Terrorism in India

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Vellore Fort Mosque Controversy: A Historical Perspective

Posted by jagoindia on May 11, 2008

Vellore: Let communal amity prevail

B R Haran | Sun, 11 May, 2008,01:14 PM

Vellore, the famous town in North Arcot District of Tamilnadu, has been famous for communal amity.

The town carries a considerable section of Muslim and Christian population apart from the majority Hindus who all coexist peacefully.

The town has a historical importance, as it was a happening place during Islamic and British rules notwithstanding the Hindu Kings’ tenures before Islamic and British invasions.

One of the most vibrant spots of the town is the famous ‘Vellore Fort’, which witnessed the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ in 1806. This fort was built by the Reddy brothers (Bomma Reddy and Thimma Reddy), who were Nayakar Chieftains under the great Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagaram, during the 16th century.

The fort comprises the ancient Jalakandeswarar Temple, a Church built by the British and an Islamic structure built by Tipu sultan as a makeshift prayer house after demolishing another Amman (Nagalamman) Temple, apart from a few government offices and a police training centre.

The fort is surrounded by a beautiful moat (‘Agazhi’ in Tamil), which never dries due to the presence of an eternal spring inside.

Though the Jalakandeswarar Temple was enhanced by a superior construction during Krishnadeva Raya’a period, the Hindu religious scholars are of the opinion that the deity is a ‘Swayambu Lingam’ belonging to ‘Dwapara Yuga”’ The worship in the Temple was suspended during the presence of Tipu Sultan as he desecrated it, though the shrewd Hindus saved the deities.

After the times of Tipu Sultan the prayer house has remained idle and prayers have never been conducted there until now.  During the British period, a Church was also constructed inside.

In the early twenties (1921), the fort and the entire complex were taken over by the ASI.  In 1981, after consistent and long drawn efforts, the Hindus brought back the deities from the safe custodial place (Sathuvachari near Vellore) and installed them in their respective places and consecrated the temple with the help of the then District Collector Gangappa and since then the prayers, poojas and festivities have become a regular affair.

With the recent passage of a resolution in the Vellore Municipality for allowing Muslims to conduct prayers inside the so-called mosque, the TMMK (Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam) had given a call for the community to congregate at Vellore on  9 May to conduct a massive Friday Namaaz.

Organisations like Hindu Munnani and Hindu Makkal Kacthi have protested against this plan. The point to note here is that, the TMMK is an ally of the ruling DMK and the Vellore Municipality in dominated by the DMK and its allies.

The Hindu Makkal Katchi had declared that it would conduct a ‘Kaavikkodi Poraattam’ (Saffron Flag Demonstration) at the fort. After seeing the resentment from the Hindu organisations, the Chief Minister, while replying to the demand made by Congress MLA Gnanasekaran in the State Assembly, who wanted the Muslims to be permitted, had said that the State government could not do anything and that only the centre could decide as the fort is maintained by the ASI.

Though the Chief Minister has the capacity to convince his trusted ally TMMK to refrain from politicising the issue, he had kept conspicuous silence after passing the buck to the Centre.

The State Police acted with alacrity and arrested cadres belonging to both TMMK and HMK as a preventive measure on Thursday evening.

Unprecedented security was also arranged in and around the fort with more than 2000 security personnel. Riot control vehicles, ambulances and fire engines were deployed and most of the district senior police officers were available on the spot.

When thousands of TMMK cadres from rest of Tamilnadu congregated and when they tried to get near the fort, the police prevented them.

As they could not go near the fort, the TMMK cadres did ‘namaaz’ on the road from 12.30 pm to 12.45 pm and later the police arrested thousand of those cadres and released them in the evening. Hundreds of HMK activists were also arrested and released later.

Arjun Sampath, President of Hindu Makkal Katchi had said, ‘the TMMK’s action is uncalled for and unwarranted. In the early eighties, when the Hindus strived hard to restart worshipping inside the temple, the Muslims led by the late Abdul Samad had given in writing that they do not intend to conduct prayers inside the so-called mosque, as they have a full fledged mosque and a Dharga just out side the fort close to the moat. We have regained the worshipping rights through a long drawn battle. Also, the Muslims have never used the prayer house as a place of worship. As the local Jamaath leaders have come out against the TMMK in the interest of communal amity, in appreciation of their welcome gesture, we also wanted to withdraw our protest demo, but as the TMMK was unrelenting, we decided to stay put. It has become a habit for the TMMK to play politics and create problems for Hindus, with the connivance of the ruling party’.

Jaishankar, another leader of HMK had said, ‘the local Muslims co-exist with us peacefully and they are not interested in conducting prayers inside the prayer house, which could not be called as a real mosque. They are happy and satisfied with the mosque, which already exists outside the fort near the moat.

There is another village Vilaankulam near Arcot, where ASI maintains a Mosque and a Cave Temple (Pandavar Gugai). Respecting the ASI’s orders we have left the cave temple as it is, as prayers have never been conducted there.

Why is the TMMK not showing any interest in the mosque there? Why does it always create problems near temple locales? We welcome, appreciate and thank the genuine stand of DMMK (Dravida Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam) and the local Jamaath, who were against the TMMK’.

Sources said that thirty percent of Vellore’s population is made of Muslims and they hold most of the businesses in the town and the majority Hindus are their customers. Hence the local Muslims have been living with the Hindus in absolute peace and they have never allowed the extremist elements like Al Umma, TMMK and MNP to set up bases there. It seems there is an internal fight between TMMK (DMK ally) and Thouheed Jamath (inclined towards AIADMK) as to who represents the majority of Muslims in the state. As the Thouheed Jamaath has been organising a big event in Thanjavur, the TMMK had tried to utilise this Vellore issue to counter it.

The Vellore episode is also seen as a ‘drama’ enacted together by both the DMK and TMMK. But, communal amity and peace have prevailed over the nefarious designs of TMMK, thanks to the DMMK and local clerics.

Muslims defy ASI to pray at mosque

The Asian Age, May 10, 2008

Vellore, May 9: Nearly 10,000 members of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) from all over the state conducted their Friday congregational prayers under 105.8 F on Vellore-Bangalore road in protest against denial of permission to pray in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected mosque inside the historic Vellore fort. Normal life in the town, about 160 km from Chennai, was affected for three hours.

The Vellore fort saw an unprecedented deployment of over 2,000 policemen led by several senior officers, while four vajras (riot control vehicles), two varuns (teargas vehicles), three fire tenders, five medical teams and five boat rescue teams (in case protesters run amok and fall into the moat) stood by. However, the disciplined TMMK cadre followed instructions from their leader M.H. Jawahirullah and courted arrest peacefully after the prayer in front of the fort.

Vellore’s Congress legislator C. Gnanasekaran told this newspaper that he was overwhelmed by the massive turnout of Muslims and their peaceful protest expressed through the congregational prayer in scorching heat. “I will take up their case, their right to pray at the age-old mosque. The right of Hindus to worship at the Jalakanteswarar temple inside the fort was conceded by the ASI in the 1980s by popular demand.

Services are going on unhindered at the St. John’s Church, also within the fort complex. Only the old mosque remains in disuse and it is natural that the Muslim community feels hurt at being denied the right to worship,” he said while urging the concerned authorities to allow the Muslims to pray at the mosque.

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