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Quran controversy in India, 1985 to 2021

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Wasim Rizvi’s PIL filed in March 2021 in the Supreme Court of India seeking deletion of 26 verses of Quran, which were obviously violent and hateful towards non-Muslims, had created turmoil in Muslim community of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The said PIL was since dismissed by the Supreme Court of India with imposition of a fine of Rs 50,000 on Wasim Rizvi.

However, Wasim Rizvi was not the first Indian to seek ban/deletion of the violent messages of Quran in the court of law. The story of “The Calcutta Quran Petition”, available in public domain is interesting. The book “The Calcutta Quran Petition”, written by Sita Ram Goel and Chandmal Chopra, was first published in 1986. It was the culmination of Writ Petition and Review Petition filed in Calcutta High Court in March and June 1985 by Chandmal Chopra seeking ban on Quran. The petitions were filed under Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code against Quran.

Chopra’s both petitions were dismissed by the Calcutta High Court during June 1985. The petitions by Chandmal Chopra led to many riots in India and Bangladesh. ‘The Statesman’ reported that at least 12 people were killed and 100 wounded, all are poor Hindus, in a border town of Bangladesh during a demonstration of 1000 people. In Dhaka, at least 20,000 people demonstrated against the petition. The demonstrators were trying to storm the office of India’s High Commission. Other riots followed in Kashmir and Bihar.

The book ‘The Calcutta Quran Petition’ was received with great interest in India and abroad. Predicatively, ‘The Times of India’ published three articles which praised the Quran during the Petition controversy. Sita Ram Goel claimed that a rebuttal to these articles could not be published in ‘The Times of India’ as the chief editor, Girilal Jain, regretted his inability to do so for reasons he could not reveal.”

At this juncture, violent contents of Hindu religious scriptures can be put forward as counter-argument. But readers should know that Quran is ‘prescriptive’ to all Muslims for all time to come. But Hindu religious scriptures are ‘descriptive’ in essence. And Hindus have liberty to be critical of their scriptures. Moreover, Hindus are not under any obligation to follow and support the violent contents of their religious scriptures today.

These 26 verses of Quran, cited in Wasim Rizvi’s PIL, are from 10 Chapters (Surah) of Quran. The Quran has a total of 114 chapters containing 6236 verses (Ayah). Out of those 10 chapters, 3 are from Mecca and rests 7 are from Medina period. There is a common belief that Quran Chapters of Mecca period are benign in nature. But, this is not so in case of these 3 chapters. Numerical representation of those 10 chapters and 26 verses are as follows (of which chapters No. 21, 32 and 41 are of Mecca period): 4:56, 4:89, 4:101, 5:14, 5:33, 5:51, 5:57, 8:12, 8:65, 8:69, 9:5, 9:14, 9:23, 9:28, 9:29, 9:37, 9:58, 9:111, 9:123, 21:98, 32:22, 33:61, 41:27, 41:28, 48:20, 66:9.

With an intention to give the readers the firsthand idea, the contents (English translation by Sahih International) of 5 out of those 26 verses of Quran mentioned in Wasim Rizvi’s PIL are placed below:

Q 4:56, – “Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses – We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted in Might and Wise”.

Q 9:5, – “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful”. 

Q 21:98, – “Indeed, you [disbelievers] and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Hell. You will be coming to [enter] it”.

Q 41:27, – “But We will surely cause those who disbelieve to taste a severe punishment, and We will surely recompense them for the worst of what they had been doing”.

Q 66:9, – “O Prophet, strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination”.

Now after reading the above mentioned verses, let us look back at IPC 153A, 295A and CrPC 95, the basis of The Calcutta Quran Petition, to see if the text of the verses mentioned above comes under those sections. The readers have to take their decision.

IPC 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—

IPC 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs.—

CrPC 95: Power to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue search warrants for the same.

It should be kept in mind that the book “Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie was banned in India under those three sections. So, there is no reason to believe that Quran controversy will die down in India (or in other parts of the world) before reaching its logical conclusion.

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