A Varanasi court has directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to carry out a physical survey of the city’s Gyanvapi Mosque that is located next to the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The direction from the court came in response to a three-decade-old petition. The petitioner, advocate VS Rastogi, had contended that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had demolished the ancient temple of Lord Vishweshwar in 1669 and used the ruins of the temple to construct a mosque. The claim has been refuted by the Gyanvapi Mosque management committee.
Committee to survey Gyanvapi Mosque
Varanasi civil court has directed the ASI authorities to constitute a five-member committee of eminent people comprising of experts from archaeology. The court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ashutosh Tiwari also clarified that two of the members of the said committee should be from the minority committee.
This apart, the court also directed the ASI director general to appoint an observer for the committee, who should be a scholar or an established academician.
The court in its order said, “The prime purpose of the Archaeological Survey shall be to find out whether the religious structure standing at present at the ‘disputed site’ is a superimposition, alteration or addition or there is a structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure.”
It also directed that the committee shall also probe whether any temple belonging to the Hindu community ever existed before the mosque in question was built or superimposed or added upon it at the ‘disputed’ site’. The court also clarified that all the expenses of the committee will have to be borne by the ASI.
The court said that the committee is expected to be aware of the sensitivity of the matter and ensure that both Hindus and Muslims are equally respected. While carrying out the survey, the committee is supposed to ensure that Muslims are not prevented from offering namaz at the disputed site, the court added.
The next hearing of the matter is scheduled on May 31.
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