Gyanvapi Mosque Dispute
Gyanvapi Mosque Dispute

“Unveiling the Gyanvapi Mosque Conundrum: A Tale of Historical Transition and Legal Deliberation”

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The Gyanvapi Mosque Dispute
There is a prevalent belief that the original Vishweshwar temple was demolished to pave the way for the Gyanvapi Mosque, constructed in 1669 under the reign of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Notably, Aurangzeb commanded Governor Abul Hassan to dismantle the temple in 1669, as mentioned in Saqib Khan’s book “Yasir Alamgiri.”

A lawsuit was filed by three individuals, including Pandit Somnath Vyas, a relative of the custodians of the Kashi Vishwanath shrine, in the Varanasi court. The suit claimed that Aurangzeb had razed the Vishweshwar sanctuary and erected a mosque in its place, thus demanding the restitution of the land. This legal matter concerning the Gyanvapi mosque has been under court deliberation since around 1991.

In a similar vein, on August 18, 2021, five women petitioned to reside in the Mother Cosmetics Gauri’s sanctuary, leading to the establishment of a commission by the court to assess the present state of the sanctuary. The court requested an overview report through visual documentation of the Cosmetics Gauri sanctuary and the Gyanvapi complex. This request sparked controversy, casting doubt on the impartiality of the court-appointed magistrate from the Muslim side entrusted with conducting the assessment.

Representing the Hindu side, Vijay Shankar Rastogi submitted a comprehensive map of the entire Gyanvapi complex as evidence during the court proceedings. The map delineates the Hindu shrines located in proximity to the mosque’s entrance, including the Vishweshwar shrine, Gyankoop, the imposing Nandi statue, and the Vyas family cellar. The evaluation and documentation of this cellar have been contentious points of discussion.

The Muslim side contends that the Strict Places Act of 1991 precludes any alteration in the status of a religious site once designated, irrespective of its current state. Section 3 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, in 1991, stipulates that a place once recognized as a place of worship cannot be reclassified under a different religious category or a different denomination within the same religion.

According to Section 4(2) of the Act, all litigations, petitions, or other legal actions pertaining to the change in status of a place of worship (pending until August 15, 1947) are to be discontinued upon the enactment of the Act, and no fresh actions can be initiated in such cases. Nevertheless, considering that the Act came into force on August 15, 1947, and presuming that the conception of the “place of worship” has evolved since then, legal proceedings might be instigated. Importantly, this Act was not applicable to the contentious Ayodhya site (Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid).

The prevailing belief suggests that the original Vishweshwar temple was demolished to make way for the Gyanvapi Mosque, constructed during the rule of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1669.

 Historical records indicate that Aurangzeb instructed Governor Abul Hassan to dismantle the Vishweshwar temple in 1669, a fact noted in Saqib Khan’s book “Yasir Alamgiri.

Three individuals, including Pandit Somnath Vyas, a relative of Kashi Vishwanath shrine custodians, filed a lawsuit in the Varanasi court. They claimed that Aurangzeb had razed the Vishweshwar sanctuary and erected the mosque, demanding land restitution.

The legal battle surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque has been ongoing since around 1991, encompassing extensive court deliberations.

Certainly, on August 18, 2021, five women filed a petition seeking habitation within Mother Cosmetics Gauri’s sanctuary. This led to the establishment of a commission by the court to evaluate the sanctuary’s present state.

The court requested a comprehensive report, supported by visual documentation, encompassing both the Cosmetics Gauri sanctuary and the sprawling Gyanvapi complex. This request ignited controversy and raised concerns over the court-appointed magistrate’s impartiality.

Vijay Shankar Rastogi, representing the Hindu viewpoint, submitted a meticulous map of the entire Gyanvapi complex during the court proceedings. This map highlighted significant Hindu shrines near the mosque’s entrance, including the Vishweshwar shrine, Gyankoop, the Nandi statue, and the Vyas family cellar.

The Muslim side contends that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991 prohibits altering the status of a recognized religious site, regardless of its current state

Certainly, Section 3 of the Act stipulates that once a place of worship is designated, it cannot be reclassified under a different religious category or denomination within the same religion.

Section 4(2) halts ongoing litigations, petitions, or legal actions related to changing the status of a place of worship, provided they were pending until August 15, 1947. The Act’s inception date raises questions about its application and the potential for legal proceedings to ensue. Notably, the Act doesn’t extend to the contentious Ayodhya site (Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid).

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