A Varanasi court on 18 August sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government, the Gyanvapi mosque management committee (officially called Anjuman Inthazamiya Masajid) and Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust on a suit filed by five Hindu women seeking restoration of worship rights of the deities inside the old temple complex, which was converted into a mosque during the Mughal rule.
Gyanvapi Mosque was built by Aurangzeb in 1669 after he razed a part of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which had been demolished even earlier by marauders of the desert cult.
Varanasi senior civil judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar sought responses of the city district magistrate and commissioner of police on the suit filed by the women led by Rakhi Singh, who through advocates Hari Shankar Jain and Vishnu Shankar Jain argued that the devotees had an indefeasible right to worship the “visible and invisible deities” inside the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex, which was allegedly damaged by Mughals during the reign of Aurangzeb.
Jain submitted the defendants should be barred from interfering in the “plaintiffs’ fundamental religious rights in decorating idols of Goddess Gauri, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman, in the worship of Nandi Ji in the temple, and not to damage those idols by issuing a temporary injunction”.
The judge said, “In the present case, UP has been made a defendant by the plaintiffs. Therefore, it is necessary to hear the defendant. The plaintiffs should plead for notice on the defendants within three days. Put up for resolution of objections on 10 September.”
Jain said the plaintiffs have filed an application urging the court to call for an “on-the-spot inspection report” from an advocate-commissioner.
Lesson Aurangzeb wanted to give to Hindu community
A Vishweshwar temple, established by Todar Mal in conjunction with Narayana Bhatta (the head of Kashi’s most-famed Brahmin family), stood on this site in the late sixteenth century. Bir Singh Deo Bundela, a close associate of Jahangir, was probably a temporary patron in the early seventeenth century and refurbished the temple to some extent.
So that Hindus remember in the times to come that they are a subjugated people, Aurangzeb ordered his men to leave the plinth more or less untouched and turn it into the courtyard of the mosque. The Muslim king asked his men to spare the southern wall (along with its cusped arches, exterior mouldings and toranas) too and turn it into the qibla wall. Historians say Aurangzeb believed a total demolition of the temple would make Hindus forget what was done to them. The reminder, he believed, would instil fear in the minds of the majority community of India who would eventually bow to Islam and embrace it.
Union and UP govts asked to file replies
The Allahabad High Court directed the state government and union government to file their responses to a petition challenging the order of a Varanasi court that directed ASI to conduct a comprehensive survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque complex to find out if a temple was destroyed to build the mosque. Justice Prakash Padia issued the direction over a petition filed by Anjuman Intazamia Masjid, Varanasi and UP Sunni Central Waqf Board. The court will hear the case on 29 September.
The fight to reclaim the temple land on which Gyanvapi Mosque stands has been going on for decades. However, in recent times, there has been notable progress. In February 2021, a suit was filed to restore the worshipping of deities in the mosque complex. In April 2021, Court allowed an ASI survey of the mosque. A 5-member team including two Muslims were appointed for the same. A petition seeking a stay on the survey was later filed in Allahabad High Court.