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Gyanvapi case: Mosque authorities advise devotees against turning up for namaz in large numbers

AIM notice requests people to either pray in their neighbourhoods or come after performing Wazu

Sabrangindia 20 May 2022

Gyanvapi

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the Gyanvapi mosque management authority, has recently issued a notice advising devotees about the changes at the mosque premises, advising them about alternate arrangements.

Readers would recall how a lower court in Varanasi had sealed the Wazu Khana, a water tank where devotees perform ablutions before offering prayers, after a “Shivling” was allegedly found there during the recently concluded video survey.

When the matter went to the Supreme Court, the court said that the area would remain sealed but without denying Muslims the right to access and pray at the mosque. But now it appears that the sealing of the Wazu Khana is indeed impacting devotees.

To peacefully address the situation the mosque authorities issued a notice in Urdu and Hindi that said, “As the Wazu Khana and restrooms have been sealed, this has caused some inconvenience to devotees. As the number of devotees is significantly higher during Jumma Nazam (Friday prayers), we request you not to turn up for namaz in large numbers. We advise you to consider performing namaz in your neighbourhoods. The people who do turn up for Jumma Namaz are advised to perform Wazu and use restrooms at home before coming for Namaz.”

The notice may be read here: 

AIM

This is an incredibly mature decision taken by mosque authorities to handle the matter peacefully, especially given how everyone has been dreading an outbreak of communal violence. The mosque authorities remain committed to following operating within the purview of the law and making sure the orders passed by the various courts are followed. They are also determined to ensure that communal harmony prevails. At the same time, they are also committed to the comfort of devotees who visit the mosque. Therefore, this notice addresses all concerns equally.

UPDATE:

However, despite the mosque management committee’s appeals over 1,000 people turned up at the mosque for Friday prayers. Dainik Bhaskar reported that where ordinarily about 400 people would come to offer Jumma Namaz (Friday Prayers), today nearly 1,200 people turned up! The maximum capacity of the mosque is 700 people. The authorities had to shut the mosque gates and request excess people to leave. To ensure that no untoward incident takes place, police personnel deployed at the mosque and also near the Kashi Vishwanath temple next to it, as well as a Local Intelligence Unit are on high alert.

Meanwhile, proceedings will continue at the Supreme Court at 3 P.M today. The SC had stopped the lower court from conducting any proceedings yesterday. The Advocate Commissioners had also submitted the survey reports to the lower court yesterday. The findings have not been made public yet.

Brief background of the case

The Gyanvapi mosque has been in the eye of the storm as it was built after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb razed a portion of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, many claim that the mosque was built using the temple’s debris. Hardline Hindutva groups, feeling particularly empowered in wake of the Ayodhya dispute verdict, have been demanding that the mosque land be given back to the temple authorities. A slew of petitions has been filed over the last two years.

One such petition was filed in August 2021, five women, one of whom has since withdrawn her name from the case. They had moved the Civil Court (Senior Division), demanding that the Maa Shringar Gauri Temple be reopened, and people be allowed to offer prayers before the idols that are still kept there. The petitioners cited the right to practice one’s faith and religious freedom guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.

On April 8, 2022, Civil Judge (Senior Division), Varanasi, Ravi Kumar Diwakar had appointed Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar to carry out the survey and asked him to submit a report at the next hearing on May 10. It is noteworthy that this is distinct from the survey by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), as that was stayed by the Allahabad High Court. The authorities began conducting the video survey on May 5.

But the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the mosque management authority, opposed this and moved court. However, their petition against the survey was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court on April 21. The lower court in Varanasi, on April 26, then again passed an order to carry out the survey, though now it appears that there was some ambiguity about where the survey could be conducted, specifically if it could be conducted inside the temple that is located on mosque land that is a Wakf property. The mosque authorities raised concerns as they claim this violates the principle of non-retrogression under the Places of Worship Act. But the petitioners say the same law would be applicable if it is discovered that there was originally a temple on the mosque and therefore the survey is important.

The AIM opposed videography inside the mosque and also alleged that Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar was “biased”. They moved court again on May 7. Hearings took place on May 10 and 11 following which the court ordered on May 12 that while it will not replace or remove Ajay Kumar as Advocate Commissioner, it will appoint two more Advocate Commissioners to conduct the survey and submit a report by May 17. The court said, “The survey will be conducted in Gyanvapi mosque and the entire barricaded area. Authorities will photograph and videograph the area. District authorities are ordered to open/break the lock of the basement and allow videography there as well.”

The survey ended on Monday, May 16, when the Shivling controversy broke out. An advocate representing the Hindu petitioners in the case moved an application before the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) saying that a Shivling, a stone sculpture considered holy by Hindus, was discovered on the premises. Responding to the application, the judge immediately ordered the area sealed.

While advocate Vishnu Jain claimed the “Shivling” was found in a well, another advocate Madan Mohan Yadav claimed it was facing Nandi (a statue of a holy cow). Details of the survey’s findings were to be submitted to the court by May 17 and have not been made public so far. In fact, when India Today probed the videographer, he simply said that he was not allowed to divulge any details. Though another cameraman Vibhash Dubey, who was a private cameraman allegedly hired by Mishra made statements about finding lotus and swastika motifs in sculptures, these being symbols associated with Hinduism. Some images and videos also found their way to different publications and news channels.

All this has transpired even though the official report has not been submitted to the court, the deadline is tomorrow. Moreover, no relevant authority has confirmed that the structure found was indeed a “Shivling”, a stone sculpture considered holy by Hindus.

Meanwhile, mosque authorities denied that the object found was a “Shivling” and said that it was actually a part of a fountain that once stood at the spot. The AIM was also displeased with how the court ordered the area sealed without even listening to the mosque authorities. The AIM moved court asking for an urgent listing and on May 17, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and PS Narasimha heard the appeal challenging the Allahabad High Court order which permitted a court commissioner appointed by Varanasi Civil Court to inspect, conduct survey and videography, the Gyanvapi mosque.

Senior Counsel Huzefa Ahmadi appearing for the appellant reportedly argued, “Despite this matter being seized of by this court, the commission went. Despite the fact no report was filed, application by plaintiff said there was a Shivling somewhere near the pond, this was highly improper. Such proceedings had to be confidential. Trial court allows the application and sealed off the area prohibiting entry. We brought this into record by an interim application.”

The Masjid Committee had opposed the suit by filing an application for rejection under Order 7 Rule 11, on the ground that both the suits filed in 1991 and 2021 are barred by the provisions of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. Reliance was placed on Supreme Court orders which categorically held that the religious character of a place as on August 15, 1947 cannot be tinkered wih.

The Supreme Court ordered that the area continue to be sealed, but without denying Muslims access to the mosque for prayers. On the same day, i.e May 17, the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) removed Ajay Kumar Mishra as one of the Advocate Commissioners tasked to conduct a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque. This is the same Advocate Commissioner that the AIM had claimed was biased and sought removal of earlier. AC Vishal Singh also moved an application before the court seeking two more days to include all facts in the report. The court granted the extension, and the report was filed on May 19, 2022. The contents have not been made public officially.

Interestingly, the petitioners also moved an application to conduct a new survey of the premises. They want a survey of the wall that stands to the north of the Shivling and the basement area facing the statue of Nandi.

On May 19, 2022, the Supreme Court ordered the Varanasi Civil Court to not proceed further in the matter pertaining to the Gyanvapi mosque, and adjourned the hearing till 3 P.M on May 20 when it will be heard by a three-judge bench.

Related:

Halt Gyan Vapi proceedings today: SC to Varanasi Court

Gyanvapi case: Video survey report to be submitted before Varanasi court today

Gyanvapi case: “Shivling” controversy continues

SC orders "Shivling" to be protected without denying Muslims access to the mosque

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court removes controversial Advocate Commissioner

Shivling ‘found’ on Gyanvapi mosque premises, court orders area sealed

Gyanvapi case: Two more advocate commissioners added to Shringar Gauri survey team

Gyanvapi case: Court to pronounce order in Shringar Gauri temple survey matter today

Gyanvapi case: One out of five withdrawing name from Maa Shringar Gauri temple petition?

Gyanvapi case: Videographic survey of Maa Shringar Gauri temple begins

Gyanvapi case: Allahabad HC stays ASI survey, proceedings before lower court

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court to hear petition to hold prayers in Shringar Gauri temple

Gyanvapi case: Mosque authorities advise devotees against turning up for namaz in large numbers

AIM notice requests people to either pray in their neighbourhoods or come after performing Wazu

Gyanvapi

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the Gyanvapi mosque management authority, has recently issued a notice advising devotees about the changes at the mosque premises, advising them about alternate arrangements.

Readers would recall how a lower court in Varanasi had sealed the Wazu Khana, a water tank where devotees perform ablutions before offering prayers, after a “Shivling” was allegedly found there during the recently concluded video survey.

When the matter went to the Supreme Court, the court said that the area would remain sealed but without denying Muslims the right to access and pray at the mosque. But now it appears that the sealing of the Wazu Khana is indeed impacting devotees.

To peacefully address the situation the mosque authorities issued a notice in Urdu and Hindi that said, “As the Wazu Khana and restrooms have been sealed, this has caused some inconvenience to devotees. As the number of devotees is significantly higher during Jumma Nazam (Friday prayers), we request you not to turn up for namaz in large numbers. We advise you to consider performing namaz in your neighbourhoods. The people who do turn up for Jumma Namaz are advised to perform Wazu and use restrooms at home before coming for Namaz.”

The notice may be read here: 

AIM

This is an incredibly mature decision taken by mosque authorities to handle the matter peacefully, especially given how everyone has been dreading an outbreak of communal violence. The mosque authorities remain committed to following operating within the purview of the law and making sure the orders passed by the various courts are followed. They are also determined to ensure that communal harmony prevails. At the same time, they are also committed to the comfort of devotees who visit the mosque. Therefore, this notice addresses all concerns equally.

UPDATE:

However, despite the mosque management committee’s appeals over 1,000 people turned up at the mosque for Friday prayers. Dainik Bhaskar reported that where ordinarily about 400 people would come to offer Jumma Namaz (Friday Prayers), today nearly 1,200 people turned up! The maximum capacity of the mosque is 700 people. The authorities had to shut the mosque gates and request excess people to leave. To ensure that no untoward incident takes place, police personnel deployed at the mosque and also near the Kashi Vishwanath temple next to it, as well as a Local Intelligence Unit are on high alert.

Meanwhile, proceedings will continue at the Supreme Court at 3 P.M today. The SC had stopped the lower court from conducting any proceedings yesterday. The Advocate Commissioners had also submitted the survey reports to the lower court yesterday. The findings have not been made public yet.

Brief background of the case

The Gyanvapi mosque has been in the eye of the storm as it was built after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb razed a portion of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, many claim that the mosque was built using the temple’s debris. Hardline Hindutva groups, feeling particularly empowered in wake of the Ayodhya dispute verdict, have been demanding that the mosque land be given back to the temple authorities. A slew of petitions has been filed over the last two years.

One such petition was filed in August 2021, five women, one of whom has since withdrawn her name from the case. They had moved the Civil Court (Senior Division), demanding that the Maa Shringar Gauri Temple be reopened, and people be allowed to offer prayers before the idols that are still kept there. The petitioners cited the right to practice one’s faith and religious freedom guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.

On April 8, 2022, Civil Judge (Senior Division), Varanasi, Ravi Kumar Diwakar had appointed Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar to carry out the survey and asked him to submit a report at the next hearing on May 10. It is noteworthy that this is distinct from the survey by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), as that was stayed by the Allahabad High Court. The authorities began conducting the video survey on May 5.

But the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the mosque management authority, opposed this and moved court. However, their petition against the survey was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court on April 21. The lower court in Varanasi, on April 26, then again passed an order to carry out the survey, though now it appears that there was some ambiguity about where the survey could be conducted, specifically if it could be conducted inside the temple that is located on mosque land that is a Wakf property. The mosque authorities raised concerns as they claim this violates the principle of non-retrogression under the Places of Worship Act. But the petitioners say the same law would be applicable if it is discovered that there was originally a temple on the mosque and therefore the survey is important.

The AIM opposed videography inside the mosque and also alleged that Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar was “biased”. They moved court again on May 7. Hearings took place on May 10 and 11 following which the court ordered on May 12 that while it will not replace or remove Ajay Kumar as Advocate Commissioner, it will appoint two more Advocate Commissioners to conduct the survey and submit a report by May 17. The court said, “The survey will be conducted in Gyanvapi mosque and the entire barricaded area. Authorities will photograph and videograph the area. District authorities are ordered to open/break the lock of the basement and allow videography there as well.”

The survey ended on Monday, May 16, when the Shivling controversy broke out. An advocate representing the Hindu petitioners in the case moved an application before the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) saying that a Shivling, a stone sculpture considered holy by Hindus, was discovered on the premises. Responding to the application, the judge immediately ordered the area sealed.

While advocate Vishnu Jain claimed the “Shivling” was found in a well, another advocate Madan Mohan Yadav claimed it was facing Nandi (a statue of a holy cow). Details of the survey’s findings were to be submitted to the court by May 17 and have not been made public so far. In fact, when India Today probed the videographer, he simply said that he was not allowed to divulge any details. Though another cameraman Vibhash Dubey, who was a private cameraman allegedly hired by Mishra made statements about finding lotus and swastika motifs in sculptures, these being symbols associated with Hinduism. Some images and videos also found their way to different publications and news channels.

All this has transpired even though the official report has not been submitted to the court, the deadline is tomorrow. Moreover, no relevant authority has confirmed that the structure found was indeed a “Shivling”, a stone sculpture considered holy by Hindus.

Meanwhile, mosque authorities denied that the object found was a “Shivling” and said that it was actually a part of a fountain that once stood at the spot. The AIM was also displeased with how the court ordered the area sealed without even listening to the mosque authorities. The AIM moved court asking for an urgent listing and on May 17, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and PS Narasimha heard the appeal challenging the Allahabad High Court order which permitted a court commissioner appointed by Varanasi Civil Court to inspect, conduct survey and videography, the Gyanvapi mosque.

Senior Counsel Huzefa Ahmadi appearing for the appellant reportedly argued, “Despite this matter being seized of by this court, the commission went. Despite the fact no report was filed, application by plaintiff said there was a Shivling somewhere near the pond, this was highly improper. Such proceedings had to be confidential. Trial court allows the application and sealed off the area prohibiting entry. We brought this into record by an interim application.”

The Masjid Committee had opposed the suit by filing an application for rejection under Order 7 Rule 11, on the ground that both the suits filed in 1991 and 2021 are barred by the provisions of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. Reliance was placed on Supreme Court orders which categorically held that the religious character of a place as on August 15, 1947 cannot be tinkered wih.

The Supreme Court ordered that the area continue to be sealed, but without denying Muslims access to the mosque for prayers. On the same day, i.e May 17, the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) removed Ajay Kumar Mishra as one of the Advocate Commissioners tasked to conduct a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque. This is the same Advocate Commissioner that the AIM had claimed was biased and sought removal of earlier. AC Vishal Singh also moved an application before the court seeking two more days to include all facts in the report. The court granted the extension, and the report was filed on May 19, 2022. The contents have not been made public officially.

Interestingly, the petitioners also moved an application to conduct a new survey of the premises. They want a survey of the wall that stands to the north of the Shivling and the basement area facing the statue of Nandi.

On May 19, 2022, the Supreme Court ordered the Varanasi Civil Court to not proceed further in the matter pertaining to the Gyanvapi mosque, and adjourned the hearing till 3 P.M on May 20 when it will be heard by a three-judge bench.

Related:

Halt Gyan Vapi proceedings today: SC to Varanasi Court

Gyanvapi case: Video survey report to be submitted before Varanasi court today

Gyanvapi case: “Shivling” controversy continues

SC orders "Shivling" to be protected without denying Muslims access to the mosque

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court removes controversial Advocate Commissioner

Shivling ‘found’ on Gyanvapi mosque premises, court orders area sealed

Gyanvapi case: Two more advocate commissioners added to Shringar Gauri survey team

Gyanvapi case: Court to pronounce order in Shringar Gauri temple survey matter today

Gyanvapi case: One out of five withdrawing name from Maa Shringar Gauri temple petition?

Gyanvapi case: Videographic survey of Maa Shringar Gauri temple begins

Gyanvapi case: Allahabad HC stays ASI survey, proceedings before lower court

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court to hear petition to hold prayers in Shringar Gauri temple

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