We, the citizens of Varanasi Amidst the Gyanvapi mosque controversy, peace activists hold meeting, take initiative to ensure harmony prevails

19, May 2022 | Fazalur Rehman Ansari

Even as the controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi continues, and security personnel are deployed across the city, anxiety lingers in its narrow bylanes. The atmosphere has been rife with tension ever since Monday, May 16, when lawyers of the Hindu petitioners publicly claimed that a ‘Shivling’, the symbol of Hindu deity Shiva, “had been discovered” in the Wazu Khana (a water tank where devotees wash their hands, feet and face before prayers) of the Gyanvapi mosque.

Mosque authorities however say that it is just a portion of an old fountain that was once in use at the spot. But, on the streets of the city, many Hindutva extremist groups spread the “shivling claim”, and parts of the city became venues of ‘celebration with religious chants and slogans ringing out loud. Videos of groups chanting, playing drums and dancing have since gone viral.


CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program is a unique initiative aiming to give voice and agency to the young, from among the communities with whom we work closely. These presently include migrant workers, Dalits, Adivasis and forest workers. CJP Fellows report on issues closest to their hearts and home, and are making impactful change every day. We hope to expand this to include far reaching ethnicities, diverse genders, Muslim artisans, sanitation workers and manual scavengers. Our raison d’etre is to dot India’s vast landscape with the committed human rights workers who carry in their hearts, Constitutional values, to transform India into what our nation’s founders dreamt it to be. Please Donate Now to increase the band of CJP Grassroot Fellows.

Many seem to be trained drummers and dancers, some wear coordinated outfits, and if locals are to be believed these people may have come from outside the city, just in time for the ‘discovery’. The actual residents of the city, however, are concerned and say all they want is peace and harmony. It is with this intention I too attended a peace meeting called by civil society members, and members of social organisations and workers. The meeting was held on Monday evening at the Vishwajyoti Jan Sanchar Kendra in Varanasi.

There were peace activists hailing from all faiths at the meeting, and from across the socio-economic map. I represented the Bunkar Sajha Manch and we all listened to various views and opinions placed by farmer leader Ramjanam, Dalit activist Anup Shramik, Gandhians Sunil Sahasrabuddhe and Vijay Narayan Singh, Dr Muniza Khan, senior social scientist and senior coordinator, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Shia mosque spokesperson Haji Farman Hyder, Left leader Manish Sharma, Praval Singh from the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vallabh Pandey from Asha, and social activists Parmita and Jagruti.

We condemned the sealing of the Wazu Khana of the mosque, a direction given by the court allegedly “without listening to the second group [Muslims]”. All of us unequivocally rejected any attempts and rumours that can potentially result in communal violence. Speaker after speaker said that all “violence should be stopped before it erupts and peace should be maintained in Banaras at all costs.”

The gathering also put the spotlight on a section of the news media who serve only to promote fake news and propaganda beneficial to divisive forces. We condemned the right wing affiliated journalists for once again attempting to spoil the peaceful atmosphere of Banaras. Banaras is a city of absolutely peaceful environment, and in the ongoing case, all legal responses are in keeping with the Constitutional provisions. As long as the trust in the courts is maintained, the country will survive.

Activists gathered agreed upon the following points of action:

1)     To go to communally sensitive neighbourhoods and hold meetings with residents, particularly youth to dissuade them from engaging in violence.

2)     To meet various business owners and traders to devise ways to protect shops and commercial establishments.

3)     To hold daily meetings between 4 P.M and 5 P.M in different spots across the city with local residents to ascertain if they fear any outbreak of violence and discuss measures to counter the same.

4)     To hold meetings with leaders and preachers of all faiths to urge them to inspire their followers to stay calm and not engage in violence.

5)     To not allow any outside elements to take over the peace initiative as many of them are just seen as publicity hungry self-styled activists who are only interested in media coverage.

6)     A delegation of activists is also likely to meet members of the civic administration and police force.

7)     To hold sensitization meetings with local media-persons so that mis-reportage and fake news are prevented from vitiating an already charged atmosphere.

Some images from the meeting may be viewed below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Meet Fazalur Rehman Ansari

Fazlur Rehman Grassroots Fellow

A weaver and a social worker, Fazlur Rehman Ansari hails from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Over the years, he has been raising issues concerning the weavers’ community. He has led the community in demanding their human rights, as citizens, and skilled craftspersons who keep the handicraft and heritage of the region alive.



Hands that weave heritage Banarasis, are now reaching out for help!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Go to Top
Nafrat Ka Naqsha 2023