A team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) today began a “scientific survey” of Varanasi’s Gnanavapi Mosque even as the mosque’s management committee filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Varanasi district court’s order allowing the visit.
The survey – which began at 7am – will extend to all areas except the sealed “Uzukhana” where a structure that Hindu litigants claim is a ‘Shivalinga’ – a relic of Lord Shiva – was found during an earlier survey in 2022. The mosque management committee is boycotting the survey conducted by ASI “No member of the Muslim side will be present during the survey,” said Syed Mohammad, joint secretary of the mosque committee.
The ASI has to submit the report to the district court by August 4.
The inspection is being carried out following the order of the Varanasi District Court on Friday. The order was passed on the plea of four women worshipers who claimed that the Gnanavapi Masjid was built after the demolition of an ancient Hindu temple and a scientific study was needed to find out the complete facts.
While passing the order, the court said that scientific investigation is “necessary” to come out with the “true facts”.
The same petitioners filed the 2021 petition on Gnanabapi, seeking year-round access to the M “Sringar Gauri” temple inside the mosque.
Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi, who represented the Hindu side in the Gnanavapi case, claimed the court’s decision was a turning point in the case. “Our application for ASI survey has been accepted. This is a turning point in the case,” he said.
The Supreme Court will hear the petition filed by the mosque management committee against the order of the Varanasi district court at 10:30 am.
In May this year, the Supreme Court stayed the “scientific survey”, including carbon dating, of the “Shivalinga” that was said to have been found in the Gnanavapi Masjid complex during a videographic survey conducted last year.
The top court’s order came days after the Allahabad High Court directed the ASI to conduct a scientific survey of the structure claimed by Hindu petitioners as “Shivalinga”. Gnanabapi mosque authorities said the structure is part of a fountain in the “Wazukhana”, where people perform ablution before offering prayers.
In September last year, the Varanasi district judge dismissed a challenge by the mosque committee which argued that the women’s case had no legal standing.
Located in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, the Gnanavapi Masjid is one of several mosques that right-wingers believe were built on the ruins of Hindu temples.
It was one of the three temple-mosque rows, besides Ayodhya and Mathura, that the BJP raised in the 1980s and 1990s.