UP court rules on 30-year old petition, orders ASI survey on Gyanvapi Mosque site: The dispute, explained
A court in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi, on Thursday, has permitted the Archaeological Survey of India to undertake a physical survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque located near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the city. A Civil Judge (senior division) of the Varanasi Civil Court issued the order on a 30-year old petition which had claimed that the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had demolished a portion of the 2,000-year-old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The petition has, reportedly, been opposed by the Gyanvapi Mosque management committee. Along with the ASI survey, the court also ordered the setup of a five-member committee comprising experts in archaeology, two of which, it noted, should ideally hail from a minority community. Petitioner for the temple's side, Vijay Shankar Rastogi, in collaboration with four others, has claimed that the Gyanvapi Mosque had been built in 1669 following Aurangzeb razing a temple of Lord Vishweshwar. Rastogi had noted that he had filed the petition in his capacity as the next friend of the Ancient Idol of Swambhu Lord Vishweshwar. According to the petitioners, the temple that stood there was built 2,050 years ago by King Vikramaditya and had suffered demolition numerous times during Muslim rule in India. Providing a historical account, the petitioners tried to prove that the land belonged to the Hindus, alleging also that a riot ensued between Hindus and Muslims in 1809 at the location of the mosque at which time the Hindus forced the Muslims off the land. Following the riots, the disputed land was given to the Hindus in 1928, they have claimed. Several riots took place subsequently with district magistrates permitting Muslims to offer prayers at the disputed compound without “(affecting the) civil right of the plaintiffs,” effectively acknowledging that the rights of the property lay with the Hindus and the temple authorities, they have said. RELATED NEWS ASI acted as midwife to all kinds of Hindutva lies, says Owaisi on Gyanvapi survery; demands PM's intervention Kashi-Vishwanath-Gyanvapi dispute hearing on Monday Civil suit filed in Varanasi court seeking restoration of temple rituals at Gyanvapi Mosque complex In the wake of the Varanasi court order, Zufar Ahmad Faruqi, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board stated that the order of the judge would be appealed before the High Court. “Our understanding is clear that this case is barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The Places of Worship Act was upheld by a 5 judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya judgement. The status of Gyanvapi Masjid is, as such, beyond question,” he added. Formed in 1991, the Places of Worship Act declares that “the religious character of a place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, shall continue to be the same as it existed on that date” and that “no suit, appeal or other proceeding with respect to...such matter shall lie on or after such commencement in any court, tribunal or other authority.” The law was passed in response to the agitation that took place over various mosques including the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Idgah in Mathura. While the Supreme Court has accepted several challenges to the constitutionality of the 1991 ruling, the law continues to stand.