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Varanasi court orders ASI survey of Gyanvapi mosque adjacent to Kashi Vishwanath temple

Form 5-member panel, with two persons from minority community, for the task, it directs ASI. Sunni Central Waqf Board to challenge order

A local court in Varanasi on Thursday directed the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque compound adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to find out whether it was a “superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure”.

The U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board said it would challenge the order in the Allahabad High Court, terming it ‘unwarranted’.

The court also directed the DG of the ASI to constitute a five-member committee of experts and those well versed in science of archaeology, two out of whom should preferably belong to the minority community.

The committee would “trace as to whether any Hindu temple ever existed before the mosque in question was built or superimposed or added upon at the disputed site,” said senior civil judge fast track court Ashutosh Tiwari in his order seen by The Hindu.

The court said the committee would be entitled to enter every portion of the religious structure situated at the disputed site but shall first resort to only Ground Penetrating Radar or Geo-Radiology System or both to satisfy itself whether any excavation or extraction work is needed at any portion of the religious structure.

If excavation or extraction is to be done at any portion of the structure, it should be first done by trial trench method vertically and that too at a very small scale and not more than four square feet at a time, the court said.

The order came on a petition demanding the restoration of the land on which the mosque stands to the Hindus claiming that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had pulled down parts of the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple to build the mosque.

The DG of the ASI is directed to get a comprehensive archaeological physical survey be done of the entire settlement plot no 9130 located at Mauja Shahar Khas, Pargana Dehat Amanat, including the Naubat Khana of the northern gate of the Gyanvapi compound and the house towards the northern gate of the naubatkhana, the court said.

“The prime purpose of the archaeological survey shall be to find out as to whether the religious structure standing at present at the disputed site is a superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure,” the judge said.

The committee has also been tasked to prepare a comprehensive documentation along with the drawing, plan, elevation site map with precise breadth and width of the disputed site marked with hatched lines in the plaint map.

The court also asked the ASI to appoint an expert as an observer for the committee, preferably a scholarly personality and established academician of any central university.

The cost and expenses of the entire survey would be borne by the ASI.

Sayid Yasin, joint secretary of the Anjuma Intejamia Masajid, caretaker of the masjid, was disappointed with the order. “We had hoped that after the Babri Masjid case, now there would be peace. But it seems like the courts and those in power do not want that,” he told The Hindu.

Sunni Central Waqf Board chairperson Zufar Faruqi said: “Our understanding is clear that this case is barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The Places of Worship Act was upheld by a 5-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya judgment. The status of Gyanvapi Masjid is, as such, beyond question.

“Even otherwise, we can say as per legal advice that the order of survey is questionable because technical evidence can only supplement certain foundational facts.”

No evidence has been produced before the court that suggests that there was a prior existing temple at the site of the mosque, he said.

Even in the Ayodhya judgment, the ASI excavation was ultimately of no use, he said. “The ASI did not find proof that the Babri Masjid was built upon demolition of a temple,” he said.

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