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Varanasi court permits ASI survey at Kashi Vishwanath temple site

A court in Varanasi has ordered an archaeological analysis of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi mosque site.

On Thursday, the court permitted a survey of the entire Kashi Vishwanath temple as well as the Gyanvapi Mosque complex by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The court also directed the Uttar Pradesh (State) government to bear the cost of the survey.

The ASI is likely to set up a team of 5 members that will visit the site soon.

The court gave this order on a petition filed by a local lawyer, Vijay Shankar Rastogi. In the petition, he demanded that the land involving the Gyanvapi Mosque be restored to Hindus. This petition was filed on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar at the civil judge court in December 2019.

According to the petitioner Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, in 1664, had demolished a portion of the more than 2000-year-old Kashi Vishwanath temple to build the mosque in its place.

The petitioner wants the ASI survey of the entire Gyanvapi compound.

The petitioner filed the petition as the ‘next friend’ of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar. An objection was filed against the petition in January 2020 by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee.

The Gyanvyapi mosque committee also opposed the petition.

The petitioner also argued that the Kashi Vishwanath temple was built by Maharaja Vikramaditya about 2,050 years ago but it was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1664 and constructed a mosque on its remains in 1664 which is known as Gyanvapi Masjid.

In the petition, the court was requested to issue guidelines for the removal of the mosque as well as give back the possession of the land to the temple.

A petition was filed for the 1st time in this regard in the year 1991 on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar seeking permission for worship in Gyanvapi.

The petition said that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was not applicable to the suit as the mosque (masjid) was built over a partly demolished temple and many portions of the temple exist even today.

Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee in 1998 moved the High Court contending that the mandir-masjid (Temple-Mosque) dispute could not be adjudicated by a civil court as it was barred by the law.

The lower court proceedings were stayed by the High Court. The stay continued for 22 years until February 2020 when the petitioners approached the lower court again with a plea to resume the hearing after the High Court had not extended the stay in the past 6 months.

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