Explained: Gyanvapi Mosque Controversy; A Brief History & Timeline Of Events 

The mosque, located next to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, has been at the centre of much talked about land disputes for years. 

The mosque, located next to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, has been at the centre of much talked about land dispute for years. (Photo: Twitter)

New Delhi: The Varanasi district court on Thursday announced its verdict in the case related to the inspection of the disputed Gyanvapi mosque in the city. The district court ordered to open the basement of the mosque and conduct an archaeological survey to determine whether the mosque was built atop a destroyed portion of a Shiv temple, as claimed by petitioners.

With this development, the national focus has once again shifted to the Gyanvapi mosque, which was built in 1669 during the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The mosque, located next to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, has been at the centre of much talked about land disputes for years. 

Here’s a look at what the Gyanvapi mosque row is about, what petitioners have claimed, and what are their demands.

Gyanvapi Mosque Controversy

The Gyanvapi mosque issue in Varanasi is very similar to Ayodhya’s Ram temple-Babri Masjid dispute, which was settled after a Supreme Court order in 2019 ruled in favour of the temple. 

In 1991, the local priests filed a petition and moved the Varanasi court saying the Gyanvapi mosque was built on the order of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing a part of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in 1669.

They demanded that the mosque be removed and the land be given to the Hindus. They also sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi Masjid area. The matter didn’t gain momentum and the hearing was suspended by the Allahabad High Court.

However, in 2019, when the Supreme Court verdict in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute of Ayodhya came, the Gyanvapi case was revived in December that year.

In 2019, petitioners demanded that an archaeological survey of the entire Gyanvapi mosque complex should be carried out.

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On 9 September 2021, the Allahabad High Court stayed the archaeological survey by the ASI in Gyanvapi Masjid.

New Controversy

The latest controversy is regarding the right to worship the idols of Shringar Gauri and other deities in the mosque premises on a daily basis. Five Delhi-based women, Rakhi Singh, Laxmi Devi, Sita Sahu and others moved the court with their plea on April 18, 2021. 

On April 26, 2022, Varanasi civil judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar ordered a survey and videography by the advocate commissioner at the mosque complex. However, the survey was opposed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, which manages the Gyanvapi mosque, and the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.

The court appointed Ajay Kumar Mishra as Advocate Commissioner and instructed him to carry out a survey of the complex and submit his videographed report.

The survey, which started on May 6, could not be completed because of a dispute over videography inside the mosque. The caretaker committee of the Gyanvapi mosque and its lawyers said that they are opposed to any videography inside the mosque. But the lawyers for the petitioners claimed they had the court’s order to do the same. 

The counsel from the Muslim side made an argument that the court had not allowed the videography inside the mosque and only outside the barricade till the courtyard. The videography of Gyanvapi Mosque concluded with sloganeering from both Hindu and Muslim sides.

But the survey was stalled on May 7 due to a protest by AIM, which also filed a petition in the court on the same day, requesting for change of advocate commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra while accusing him of working under the pressure of the plaintiffs.

Following the court directive on May 12, 2022 the survey and videography of Gyanvapi premises is set to begin again on May 14. 

Gyanvapi Mosque Row: Claims From Both Sides

The Hindu side is seeking permission to worship daily at the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex, and for this, the petitioners have demanded a survey of the complex. The Hindu side says that to prove the existence of the idol of Shringar Gauri, one has to go inside the mosque. This is the reason why the survey team is attempting to enter the mosque premises to inspect and take video records.

The mosque management committee (Anjuman Intezamiya Masajid) says the idol of Shringar Gauri is outside, on the western wall of the mosque.