Varanasi court allows ASI to survey Kashi Vishwanath temple, Gyanvapi mosque complex

Lucknow: A court in Varanasi on Thursday gave its approval for the survey of Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Gyanvapi Mosque complex by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The court has also directed the Uttar Pradesh government (Uttar Pradesh Govt) to bear the cost of the survey.

The court order came on a petition filed by VS Rastogi, a local lawyer, who demanded that the land entering the Gyanvapi mosque be restored to the Hindus. The petition was filed in December 2019 on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Lord Vishweshwar in the court of civil judge. The petitioner claimed that in 1664 the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb demolished a part of the 2000-year-old Kashi Vishwanath temple to build the mosque.

The petitioner requested for a survey of the entire Knowledge Campus by ASI. He had filed a petition as the ‘next friend’ of Lord Vishweshwara, the Swayambhu Jyotirlinga. In January 2020, the Anjuman Intezamia Mosque Committee lodged an objection against the petition. The petition was also opposed by the Gyanvapi Masjid Management Committee.

The petitioner further stated that the Kashi Vishwanath temple was built by Maharaja Vikramaditya some 2,050 years ago, but the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple in 1664 and used its remains to build a mosque, which was built in a Gyanvapi mosque. Known as Stakes.

The petitioner requested the court to issue instructions to remove the mosque from the temple land and give back its possession to the temple trust. The first petition was filed in 1991 by the Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Lord Vishweshwar in Varanasi Civil Court for permission to worship at Gyanvapi.

In 1998, the Anjuman Intezamia Committee approached the High Court, saying that the dispute could not be adjourned by the civil court. The High Court did not pass an order in the case and did not stay the proceedings in the lower court.

This is a sensitive issue, so it was left untouched for years. The case again gained attention in 2019 as the Hindu side filed an appeal in the case.

Today, the Varanasi court passed an order allowing the ASI to constitute a team of 5 people, of which 2 would be from the minority community. While granting its permission for the ASI survey of the mosque, the court said that all the expenses would be borne by the state government.

(With agency inputs)