Lucknow: A team led by a court-appointed advocate commissioner said it was unable to enter the Gyanvapi mosque to conduct videography and survey for the second consecutive day amid objections from the mosque’s managing committee, which moved a local court Saturday seeking replacement of the advocate commissioner.
“We have doubts about the fairness of the commissioner,” Tauqir Khan, counsel for the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which is the managing committee of the Varanasi mosque, told mediapersons.
The court then directed the advocate commissioner to submit in writing a response to the allegations of the mosque committee.
The matter will now be heard Monday.
The survey relates to a decades-old dispute in the courts that began with a suit filed in 1991, which sought permission to worship at an ancient temple in the mosque premises.
On 8 April last year, Delhi-based Rakhi Singh along with others had filed a case demanding permission for daily worship of idols of Hindu deities Maa Shringar Gauri, Ganesha, Hanuman and Nandi, situated on the outer wall of the Gyanvapi mosque.
The senior division civil court of Varanasi had then ordered that an archaeological survey of the premises be carried out.
On 12 April this year, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee moved a petition before the Allahabad High Court, challenging the lower court’s order appointing an advocate as a court commissioner for inspection of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir-Gyanvapi Masjid complex. The petition was however dismissed on 22 April.
The Intezamia committee had earlier said that no one would be allowed to enter the premises, while asserting that it was ready to face the consequences.
On Friday, the first day of the survey, the team led by Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar could only examine the outer premises of the mosque but couldn’t cross a barricading to enter the disputed site located inside it.
On Saturday, a huge crowd gathered outside the mosque complex and raised religious slogans.
The bone of contention is the interpretation of the court order directing that a survey of the “Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal and other areas” within the mosque premises be conducted.
Advocate Vishnu Jain, who represents the petitioners, told mediapersons that the survey could not be carried out as the advocate commissioner and his team was not allowed to enter the barricading to reach the disputed site.
“The people from the Muslim side are inside the barricading in huge numbers and when the advocate commissioner and his team tried to enter, they were not allowed to do so. They stood at the door and hence the survey could not be completed. On 9 May, the matter will be heard by the court and we will keep our arguments before the court,” he added.
The Intezamia committee’s joint secretary Sayyad Mohammed Yaseen had told mediapersons Friday that their objection was that “in the judge’s order, there is no mention to the effect that they (team survey team) can enter the masjid and barricading”.
“They are repeatedly saying that they will enter the masjid and barricading. So we are objecting to it and we will continue to object…Only security personnel and Muslims can go there and this will continue,” he further said, adding that security at the disputed site within the mosque “will collapse” if the videography becomes public.
‘Doubts over fairness of advocate commissioner’
Tauqir Khan, one of the lawyers representing the Intezamia committee mediapersons Saturday that they had come to hand over a copy of the court order to the advocate commissioner and petitioners’ counsels.
“We are not here to participate in the activity. We have doubts over the fairness of the commissioner,” he added.
Asked about the court order directing the commissioner to carry out the survey, he said: “The court’s directions do not mean that they (the team) start resorting to whimsicalness.”
Court is blatantly defying SC, says Owaisi
Meanwhile, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi took to Twitter to object to the survey Saturday.
“This order to survey Kashi’s Gyanvapi Masjid is open violation of 1991 Places of Worship Act, which prohibits conversion of religious places. SC in Ayodhya judgment had said the Act protects ‘secular features of Indian polity which is 1 of basic features of Constitution’,” he tweeted.
“Unfortunate that the court is blatantly defying the SC. By this order, the court is opening the path for the bloodshed of Rath Yatra and anti-Muslim violence of 1980s-1990s,” he continued.
This order to survey Kashi’s Gyanvapi Masjid* is open violation of 1991 Places of Worship Act, which prohibits conversion of religious places. SC in Ayodhya judgement had said the Act protects “secular features of Indian polity which is 1 of basic features of Constitution”1/2 https://t.co/ed5yyS9ieL
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) May 7, 2022
Congress leader Shahnawaaz Alam too questioned the order to conduct the survey. In a statement, he alleged that a section of the judiciary was being misused to spoil the harmony of Varanasi.
What happened on day 1 of survey
On Friday, the survey timing coincided with namaaz. Heavy police deployment was witnessed around the complex. Tensions were high as both Hindus and Muslims raised slogans. A woman was also reportedly detained by Varanasi police after she offered namaaz at an undesignated place within the Kashi Vishwanath Temple premises.
Abhay Nath Yadav, the main advocate representing the mosque committee, reportedly objected to the videography saying that the commissioner’s team was trying “to show certain things by scraping” even as there is no order pertaining to digging or scraping.
The petitioners’ advocate Vishnu Jain, meanwhile, had told mediapersons the survey team completed videography on the western side of the mosque Friday, but was unable to enter the barricading.
“When we were entering the masjid, the Muslim side objected to it which was followed by a lot of arguments. Their attempt was to dilly-dally or mislead so that somehow, we are unable to enter the barricading,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Intezamia committee’s joint secretary Sayyad Mohammed Yaseen told mediapersons that they have no objections to the survey being conducted in the outer premises of the mosque.
“We will not allow them (advocate commissioner’s team) to enter the masjid and the barricading. If they want to do their survey outside, we have no objection,” he said.
“When it is well established that within the limits (of disputed site), only Muslims and security personnel can enter, then should that be done away with? We will not let anyone enter,” he further said, alleging that the committee was not given a proper hearing during appointment of the court commissioner.
“A proper list of lawyers is usually given and then selection of those who can remain in the commission is done. The commissioner has been appointed as per the demand of the opposite party. The entire process was not followed,” claimed Yaseen.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)