'Shivling found': Court order sealing of spot, Gyanvapi mosque panel disputes claim

Gyanvapi Masjid
Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dham and Gyanvapi Masjid complex, in Varanasi. Photo: PTI

Varanasi: A local court on Monday ordered the sealing of a pond in the Gyanvapi Masjid complex after lawyers representing the Hindu petitioners said a Shivling was found there during the court-mandated videography survey.

A mosque management committee member disputed the claim, saying the object was part of the water fountain mechanism at the wazookhana reservoir - where devotees carry out ablutions before offering namaz.

The survey team's report will be submitted before the district court on Tuesday. The Supreme Court is also expected to hear this week a petition filed earlier against the survey ordered by a Varanasi district court.

Anjuman Intezamiya Masjid Committee joint secretary Syed Mohammad Yasin claimed that the mosque management was not heard before Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar issued the order.

Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma warned against speculation on what has been found in the mosque.

But the claimed finding on the last day of the three-day survey reignited the mandir-masjid debate over the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri complex located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Vishal Singh
Court Commissioners Vishal Singh (2L) and Ajay Pratap Singh (L) with their team leave after the third and last day of a videographic survey at Gyanvapi Mosque complex, in Varanasi, Monday, May 16, 2022. Photo: PTI

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya expressed satisfaction over the development while AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said Muslims are not prepared to lose another mosque after the Babri Masjid.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti also referred to the Babri mosque, demolished in 1992, and said, These claims on mosques are only to fuel hate.

Judge Diwakar accepted the application from Hindu petitioners' advocate Harishankar Jain, who argued that the Shivling found during Monday's survey was important evidence.

The application urged the court to direct the CRPF to seal the spot. It also asked the court to restrict the number of people offering namaz at the mosque.

"The District Magistrate of Varanasi has been directed that the place where the Shivling was found should be sealed with immediate effect and no person allowed to enter the sealed area," the judge said in his order.

The judge directed the district magistrate, the police commissioner and the CRPF commandant in Varanasi to ensure security at the sealed area.

Commissioner of Varanasi Deepak Agrawal
Commissioner of Varanasi Deepak Agrawal interacts with media during the third and last day of a videographic survey at Gyanvapi Mosque complex, in Varanasi, Monday, May 16, 2022. Photo: PTI

The wazookhana has been sealed this evening, and there was no ruckus. The Muslim side also agreed to it as it was the order of the court, the district magistrate told PTI.

A senior Varanasi official said the structure is located in the middle of the wazookhana pond that is about 30 feet by 30 feet across

The pond is already barricaded with an iron net and covered from the top by a tin shed. There are three doors that lead to the pond. Locks have to be put on these doors," the official said earlier.

The counsels representing the Hindu petitioners and the mosque committee had accompanied the team conducting the survey.

According to a Hindu representative, some water was drained out to expose the structure.

The local court is hearing a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily prayers before the idols on the mosque's outer walls.

The survey of the entire complex was ordered during this hearing and was initially stalled by the mosque management, alleging that the advocate commissioner assigned to the task was biased.

Monday's survey started at 8 am and ended around 10.15 am. All parties were satisfied with the work," the DM said.

He said the next order of the court will be known only on Tuesday, the deadline set by it for the advocate commissioner to submit the survey report.

Till then nobody should disclose what has been found inside the court complex, the DM said.

"However, if anyone is disclosing it on their own, then its authenticity cannot be proved. Only the court is the custodian of this information, he said.

On Twitter, Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Keshav Prasad Maurya said in Hindi, "Satya hee Shiv hai."

"No matter how much you hide the Truth, but one day it will come to the fore, because Truth is Shiva. Glory to Baba. Har Har Mahadev," he wrote.

Gyanvapi Masjid
View of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dham and Gyanvapi Masjid complex, in Varanasi, Saturday, May 14, 2022. Photo: PTI

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi leader said when he was 19 or 20 years old, the Babri Masjid was snatched from us and the community will now allow this to happen to people who are of that age now.

They should get a message that we will not allow losing any mosque, and we know your tactics (hathkande'), and we will not allow you to sting us again, the Hyderabad MP is heard telling supporters in a video clip he uploaded on Twitter on Monday.

"The mosque exists and it will exist, inshallah, till 'kayamat' (Judgement Day), he said.

Mosque committee member Syed Mohammad Yasin questioned the classification of the object in the wazookhana pond as Shivling.

"All mosques built during the Mughal era had fountains at the 'wazookhana'. Like other mosques, a green stone was also fixed at the fountain of the Gyanvapi mosque, which is being termed a Shivling."

He said the committee's lawyers were not given a copy of the application submitted by the Hindu side in court on Monday. Nor were we heard, he claimed.

Shivling claim unfair

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has termed as "unfair" and an "attempt to create communal disharmony" the sealing of a pond in the Gyanvapi Masjid complex after it was claimed that a Shivling was found there during a survey.

In a statement issued late Monday night, AIMPLB general secretary Khalid Saifullah Rahmani said, "The Gyanvapi mosque is a mosque and will remain a mosque. The attempt to term it a temple is nothing more than a conspiracy to create communal disharmony. It is a matter of constitutional rights and is against the law."

"In 1937, in the case of Deen Mohammad Vs State Secretary, the court had decided on the basis of oral testimony and documents that this entire compound (Gyanvapi mosque complex) belongs to the Muslim Waqf and Muslims have the right to offer namaz in it," he said.

The court had also decided that how much area is of the mosque and how much is of the temple. At the same time, the wazookhana was accepted as the property of the mosque, Rahmani added.

"Then in 1991, the Places of Worship Act was passed by Parliament, which states that the places of worship as they were in 1947 will be maintained in the same condition. Even in the Babri Masjid judgment, it was said that now all places of worship places will be under this law," he said.

The AIMPLB general secretary also said the claim of the mosque being a temple should have been immediately rejected by the court but the civil court of Varanasi ordered the survey and videography.

The Waqf Board has approached the high court in this matter and the case is pending there. The Gyanvapi mosque management committee has also approached the Supreme Court against the civil court's decision.

"The issue is being heard. But by ignoring all these things, the civil court first issued the order of the survey and then, accepting its report, issued an order to seal the portion of wazookhana," Rahmani said.

"This order is an excess and also a violation of law which cannot be expected from a court. The government should stop the implementation of the order and wait for the Allahabad High Court's decision. The government should protect all religious places as per the 1991 Act," he said.

Referring to the claims of a temple inside the mosque, Rahmani said, "If the status of the places of worship is changed on the basis of such arguments, then the whole country will be pushed into turmoil, because many big temples are made by converting Buddhist and Jain shrines and their traces are also visible there."

"Muslims cannot tolerate this atrocity. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board will fight this injustice at every level," he said.

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