Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) has made a proposal to install a giant statue of Lakshman, the younger brother or Lord Ram, in a park in Teele Wali Masjid in Lucknow area. In an ideal world, this proposal should have been welcomed and must have enhanced communal harmony in the locality. However, some extremist elements seem to be perturbed by this move.
The proposal to construct a grand statue of Lakshman was mooted by BJP corporators Ram Krishna Yadav and Rajneesh Gupta who wrote a letter to Lucknow’s Mayor, Sanyukta Bhatia. The proposal was approved on the grounds that the place was earlier called ‘Lakshman Teela’ and that the city was historically known as Laxmanpuri- a name derived from Lord Lakshman. Rajneesh Gupta said, “The area where Masjid is located in still registered in the name of Lakshman Tila. Lakshman came here and this place has historic importance. This is the reason we want his statue there.” UP BJP spokesperson, Manish Shukla stated that Lucknow was known as Lakhanpuri and Laxmanpuri and that there should not be any issue if Lakshman statue is installed there.
However, religious clerics and fundamentalist Islamic elements in the locality do not seem to be happy with this proposal. Imam of Teele Wali Masjid, Maulana Syed Fazlul Mannan Rahmani stated, “We don’t object to the construction of Lakshamnji or Ramji’s statue anywhere but a statue in that small park outside Teele Wali Masjid may become a hindrance to the big namaz gatherings we have during which the crowd offers namaz on the roads and in the park. This might lead to possibilities of a clash. I have spoken to the mayor and she said talks were on and that we will be informed about whatever the decision is.” He also added that “It’s a cheap political gimmick, ahead of elections. The Nagar Nigam’s decision to install an idol of Lord Ram’s brother is purely an act to start a new controversy. The situation needs immediate intervention of the district magistrate and could lead to breach of peace.” It is both condemnable and frightening at the same time that how in the garb of playing victim, he has shrewdly sent across the threat of clashes and “breach of peace”. It is difficult to understand how a statue can threaten a religion and cause any inconvenience whatsoever. It is unacceptable how threats of clashes and breach of peace are being thrown around over installation of a statue.
It is not only Maulana Syed who is raising objections over installation of the Lakshman statue but several other clerics have also expressed reluctance towards setting up of the Hindu Lord’s statue and all of them threatened, in a veiled manner, that the statue would cause tensions in the community. Sufiyan Nizami, a Sunni cleric stated that the Teele Waali Masjid is the most iconic mosque in the city and setting up a Lakshman idol near the mosque where most people come to offer namaz could lead to tensions in the area. Another cleric, Maulana Saif Abbas also criticised the proposal of installing the statue and made it clear that the statue should be constructed inside a temple but it should not be installed at a place where it could create tension.
One can now only wish that this proposal was taken in the right spirit. However, extremist elements have taken over the narrative and are unnecessarily creating a controversy around the statue. It is an absolutely ridiculous argument to say that just because a statue is installed in a park, mosque visitors won’t be able to offer namaz. It is bizarre and senseless. This should be seen as a message and an admission on their part that they don’t want to live in harmony.