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Varanasi Court Allows ASI to Survey Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Gyanvapi Mosque Complex

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A Varanasi Court on Thursday gave its approval for survey of Kashi Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi Mosque complex by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The court further directed the Uttar Pradesh government to bear the cost of the survey.

The court order came on a petition filed by a local lawyer VS Rastogi, who had demanded that the land entailing the Gyanvapi Mosque be restored to Hindus. The petition was filed in December 2019 on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar in the court of civil judge. The petitioner claimed that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1664 pulled down a portion of the 2000-year-old Kashi Vishwanath temple to build the mosque in its place.

The petitioner requested for a survey of the entire Gyanvapi compound by the ASI. He had filed the petition as the ‘next friend’ of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar. In January 2020, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee had filed an objection against the petition. The Gyanvyapi mosque management committee had also opposed the petition.

The petitioner had further contended that the Kashi Vishwanath temple was built by Maharaja Vikramaditya about 2,050 years ago, but Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple in 1664 and used its remains to construct a mosque, which is known as Gyanvapi masjid, on a portion of the temple land.

The petitioner requested the court to issue directions for the removal of the mosque from the temple land and give back its possession to the temple trust.

The first petition was filed in the Varanasi civil court in 1991 on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar seeking permission for worship in Gyanvapi.

In 1998, Anjuman Intazamiya committee moved the high court contending that the dispute cannot be adjudicated by a civil court. The high court did not pass an order in the matter and also didn’t stay the proceedings in the lower court.

A sensitive issue, it was left untouched for years. The matter gained attention in 2019 again as the Hindu side pursued the matter.

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

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