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  4. OPINION | Was there a temple before Gyanvapi Mosque?

OPINION | Was there a temple before Gyanvapi Mosque?

The apex court directed the district magistrate to make arrangements for ‘wazu’(ablution) for devotees and allow ‘namaaz’ to continue. while also asking the district court to hear the pleas of the Muslim side speedily.

Rajat Sharma Written by: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Published on: May 20, 2022 17:23 IST
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OPINION | Was there a temple before Gyanvapi Mosque?

The Supreme Court on Friday transferred the Gyanvapi case from Civil Judge (senior division) to District Judge in Varanasi. In its interim order, the apex court said, the district judge of Varanasi shall first decide the maintainability of civil suits filed by Hindu plaintiffs upon transfer of prayers. The court said, its interim order of May 17 for protection of Shivling area in the Gyanvapi complex will continue and arrangements for ‘wazu’ (ablution) will be done.

The bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and P. S. Narasimha, said, “a slightly more seasoned and mature hand should hear this case”. The bench, however, added, “we are not making aspersion on the trial judge but if a more seasoned hand handles this case, it will benefit all parties”.

The apex court also directed the district magistrate to make arrangements for ‘wazu’(ablution) for devotees and allow ‘namaaz’ to continue. It also directed the district court to hear the pleas of the Muslim side speedily. The apex court said security forces shall continue to protect the ‘Shivling-like’ structure found in the ‘wazukhana’. The interim order of the Supreme Court shall be in force for the next eight weeks.

The apex court bench said, it is on “a joint mission to preserve a sense of unification in the country. Once a commission report is there, there cannot be selective leaks. Do not leak things to the press. Only the judge opens the report”.  The bench also said, “we cannot guide a District Judge. Let them handle it. They have enough experience at the bench. We cannot command him to hear it this way or that way”.  The apex court made this observation when the advocate for Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee Huzaifa Ahmadi told the court that all the orders passed from the beginning (by the civil court) are capable of creating great public mischief. It is in the teeth of an injunction passed by Parliament”. 

Senior Advocate C S Vaidyanathan, representing the Hindu side, said, ‘the special leave petition today is infructuous since all the three orders have been complied with. The religious character of the mosque has to be decided. The commission report has to be seen by the court”.  Replying to this, the bench said, “we took your point, that is why we are entrusting it to a district judge.”

Meanwhile, Friday ‘namaaz’ was offered peacefully by a large number of Muslim devotees at the controversial Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi. The Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee had appealed to Muslims to come in limited numbers because of certain restrictions, but a large crowd of devotees assembled at the mosque for ‘namaaz’ prayers. Many of the devotees were turned away from Gate No. 4 of Vishwanath Dham, as the gate was closed. There was heavy deployment of security forces to ensure law and order. The Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee had in its appeal said that since the ‘wazukhana’ (ablution pond) has been sealed by security forces on orders of the Supreme Court, it would be advisable for a lesser number of devotees to come for prayers. Both the ‘wazukhana’ and toilet have been sealed by the district administration.

The survey report was submitted by the court-appointed commissioners on Thursday, which indicates that there could be a Shiva temple where the Gyanvapi mosque stands. The Hindu side claims that the 450-year-old Baba Vishwanath temple existed on that spot.

The Hindu side claims that portions of the temple lie hidden within the Gyanvapi mosque. Several religious signs depicting Lord Shiva and other gods and goddesses have been found. Symbols resembling a conch shell (shankh), considered holy in Hinduism, a Swastik sign, bells and betel leaves, trishul, damroo, designated places to keep diyas and idols, and mandaps for performing rituals have been found by the survey team.

The 15-page report along with 32 GB of video footage, sheaf of maps and photographs has been submitted in three sealed boxes to Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar.  Officially, the report will be made public when the court will take up the case for hearing on Monday(May 23).

The Hindu side claims that several objects which indicate parts of old Hindu temple architecture have been found in the inner sanctum of the mosque during the three-day survey.

The Hindu side claimed that on the black stone claimed to be an old Shivling, a cylindrical structure carved out of black stone in the middle of ‘wazukhana’ “resembles a Shivling” rather than a portion of a fountain, as claimed the mosque management. Once the water of the ‘wazukhana’ was drained out, the black cylinder structure was visible. According to sources, Aijaz Mohammed, the munshi of the Gyanvapi mosque management, who was part of the survey team, was asked by the Special Court Commissioner about this so-called foundation. He replied that the fountain has been non-functional for a long time, but he could not recollect in which year it stopped working.  The masjid munshi first said, 20 years, and later changed it to 12 years. The lawyers for Hindu side challenged him to show that the fountain could work, but the munshi refused, sources said.  

Both sides may be making their respective claims, but the evidences of Hindu religious symbols that have been found till now clearly indicates that there existed a 450-year-old Baba Vishwanath temple, where the mosque is located.

At the time of survey, there were a total of 52 people inside, which included lawyers from both sides. One cannot describe this survey report as one-sided. Most of the temples in northern India have ‘conch-shell’ shaped spires. The present Kashi Vishwanath temple also has a similar spire. The most important thing is that the conical shape structure is not only inside the northern dome but in all the three domes.  These bear the symbols of flower, betel leaves and lotus flower.

India TV reporter Bhaskar Mishra asked S. M. Yaseen, joint secretary of Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee, about Hindu symbols like the swastika, lotus, ‘shlokas’ found in the Gyanvapi complex. He replied that the mosque in Gyanvapi was built with locally available material, and the artisans were also local. “It could be that Hindu symbols must have been added when the mosque was being built. Discovery of Swastik symbol does not make a mosque, a temple”, he said.  

The question is: in which mosque in the world can one find the ‘swastik’, lotus, trishul or bell symbols. Which Muslim home has the name ‘Ram’ carved on the walls? Lawyers for Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee say that the artisans were from India, and in the age of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb they added trishul, lotus, swastika symbols while building the walls of the mosque. I am surprised why they did not say that they put Hindu temple spires beneath the domes of the mosque to prevent the leaking of rainwater during the monsoon.

When details of the survey report became public through the media, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi came up with a different argument. He questioned the capability of the court-appointed commissioners who prepared the survey report. Owaisi said, the Muslim side had questioned the impartiality of the advocate who was appointed as commissioner, but the lower court made him the arbitrator. “What else can you expect”, Owaisi asked.  

Owaisi is right when he says that it is the Supreme Court that will decide on this matter, based on real evidences. But it is unjustified, when you start blaming the survey commissioners for preparing a report which does not suit one side. To question the impartiality and honesty of the advocate commissioners, who conducted the survey, is indirectly casting aspersions on the lower court. Owaisi did not disclose the fact that the lower court had to change commissioners twice, when Muslim side questioned their impartiality. I think the intentions are not bonafide.

Secondly, Owaisi is demanding that the Supreme Court should reject this survey order outright, and no ‘balance’ is required. Owaisi may wait for the Supreme Court verdict, but what about other maulanas who are unwilling to wait for the apex court to decide. Maulana Khalilur Rahman, secretary of Raza Academy, on Thursday menacingly said, “Muslims have started losing their patience. One by one, mosques are being taken away from their possession. Let BJP give the list of mosques which they want so that it could be easier for Muslims to come on the streets.” Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq said, “Muslims will sacrifice their lives to save Gyanvapi mosque.” Another cleric Mufti Salman Azhari said, Barq saheb should come first to offer his sacrifice because Muslims voted for him. He also said, “We have lost Babri mosque, we will not allow Gyanvapi mosque to be taken away, at any cost.”

I think matters do not take an ugly turn because of the courts. They take an ugly turn because of irresponsible remarks that leaders and clerics made. Let us be clear. The survey was done on the orders of local court. The team consisted of not only court-appointed commissioners, but also lawyers and plaintiffs from both sides. The survey was done in the presence of more than 50 people. Nobody can allege that the survey commissioners have written lies in their report. The report that has been submitted is a clear narration of what the commissioners saw.

I am also surprised over Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav’s remark. He said, in India, a temple is built whenever I somebody installs a stone, puts vermillion mark on the stone, and hoists a saffron flag. It becomes a temple. Akhilesh Yadav should clearly say whether the spot from where the Shivling was found and symbols like swastika, lotus, damroo and trishul were found, had a Shiv temple or not. If his party MP Shafiqur Rahaman Barq can say that Muslims will offer sacrifice to protect the mosque, then how can they stop Hindus from saying that they will also sacrifice to regain their temples.  

If Maulana Khalilur Rahman says that mosques are being taken away, one by one, from Muslims, then he must explain which are those mosques that have been forcibly taken away. In that case, those from Hindu society will ask where were they when Hindu temples were destroyed in Kashmir. It is an accepted historic fact that Emperor Aurangzeb issued order for demolishing Kashi Vishwanath temple and built mosques in their places. He also ordered demolition of Keshav Dev temple in Mathura. The Eidgah built on Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura is a glaring example.

Now that the ball is in the district court of Varanasi, all eyes will now be on what next steps the District Judge takes in the Gyanvapi issue.

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