A city court in Varanasi has given permission to Hindu petitioners to worship in the basement of the Gyanvapi mosque complex, which was sealed earlier. The basement area, known as ‘Vyas ka tekhana’, is believed to be part of an ancient temple that was demolished to build the mosque. The court also ordered the district administration to remove the barricades and let the priests of the Vishwanath Temple conduct the prayers within a week. The ruling came on Wednesday afternoon, the last day of the judge’s service.
The lawyer of the four Hindu women who filed the petition, Vishnu Shankar Jain, said: “Hindu side allowed to offer prayers… district administration will have to make arrangements within seven days. Puja will start within seven days. Everyone will have the right to pray there.”
The mosque has four cellars in the basement, one of which is still occupied by a family of priests who used to live there. The family claimed that they had the right to enter the structure and perform pujas as they were the descendants of the original temple priests. Earlier, it was alleged that the remains of Hindu idols were found during the Archaeological Survey of India’s inspection. It was also alleged that some parts of the old temple structure, such as pillars, were used in the construction of the mosque.
The Allahabad High Court had dismissed all the pleas of the mosque committee that had opposed the civil suits seeking the restoration of the temple at the site. The case pertains to the Gyanvapi mosque, which is situated next to the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The High Court had rejected the petitions of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee, who had challenged the validity of a 1991 suit filed by the Adi Vishveswar Virajman deity. The suit demanded the control of the disputed site and the permission to worship there. The mosque committee and the Waqf board had argued that the suit was not valid under a law that prohibits the change of the status of a religious place as it existed on August 15, 1947, the day of India’s independence. The petitioners had argued that the dispute was older than that and hence not affected by the law.
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