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“Puja” Started in Gyanvapi Mosque Cellar on Court’s Order

“Puja” Started in Gyanvapi Mosque Cellar on Court’s Order

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: Even as the Gyanvapi Mosque Committee approached the Allahabad High Court against the district court’s order at the behest of the Supreme Court, a priest designated by the Kashi Vishwanath temple performed prayers at a cellar known as ‘Vyas Ji Ka Tehkhana’ inside the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi on Thursday, a day after the district court ordered that a Hindu priest can perform prayers before idols in the cellar of the mosque.

Acting swiftly to ensure the compliance of the court order, District Magistrate (Varanasi) S. Rajalingam reached the disputed site on Wednesday itself along with senior police officials after the district court ordered the local administration to unseal within seven days the premises which was sealed in 1993 on the orders of the then Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh government.

He ordered the removal of barricades placed outside the cellar and reviewed the necessary arrangements needed to be done to perform worship at the spot. “The court order has been complied with,” Mr Rajalingam said.

The order was given by now retired district judge Ajay Krishna Vishwesha on his last working day. The judgment came while hearing the application filed by one Shailendra Kumar Pathak, priest of Acharya Ved Vyas Peeth temple, in September 2023, which had sought worship of visible and invisible deities in the basement of the mosque.

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Gyanvapi mosque committee to approach the Allahabad High Court against the order. Lawyers representing the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee moved the Supreme Court registrar seeking an urgent hearing. The registrar conveyed to them that Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had asked them to approach the High Court.

In their application, advocates Nizam Pasha and Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi submitted that under the garb of the order, the local administration, in “hot haste” has deployed a massive police force on the site and is in the process of cutting the grills located at the southern side of the mosque.

“There is no reason for the administration to undertake this task in hot haste in the dead of the night as the order passed by the Trial Court had already given them one week to make the necessary arrangements. The obvious reason for such unseemly haste is that the administration in collusion with the plaintiffs is trying to foreclose any attempt by the Mosque Managing Committee to avail of their remedies against the said order by presenting them with a fait accompli,” their letter said.

In a significant development in the legal battle over the mosque adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, the district court on Wednesday ruled that a priest can perform prayers before the idols in a cellar of the Gyanvapi Masjid. The prayers will be conducted — apparently at regular intervals — by a “pujari” nominated by the Kashi Vishwanath temple trust and the petitioner who claims his grandfather offered puja at the cellar up to December 1993.

The order was given by now retired district judge Vishwesha on his last working day. The judgment came while hearing the application filed by one Shailendra Kumar Pathak, priest of Acharya Ved Vyas Peeth temple, in September 2023, which had sought worship of visible and invisible deities in the basement of the mosque.

Pictures from inside the cellar showed giant stones placed evenly to make a platform over which a saffron cloth was placed. Pictures of Hindu deities, draped in red cloth, were placed on the platform, whose background too was covered with saffron cloth. The sides of the cellar looked dark. Electric wires were used to ensure proper lighting inside the basement. According to reports, aarti was performed inside the cellar, five times a day. The entry of devotees inside the cellar is not allowed.

A senior police official involved in providing security arrangements at the mosque said both the police and PAC had been deployed at the mosque site to ensure law and order. A gate was installed around southern cellar doors. The same gate was used by the devotees to get a partial glimpse of the small worship space created inside the basement. Beelines of devotees was seen making round of the mosque, cheering for the victory of Hindus.

While the administration managed to maintain peace in the city, some anti-social elements attempted to change the signboard of the Gyanvapi ‘mosque’ into Gyanvapi ‘temple’, which was later replaced by the police. Pragya Pathak, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Dashashwamedh zone, said a case had been registered against unidentified persons and the police were trying to identify those involved in the incident.

Meanwhile, the Anjuman Intejamia Masajid Committee (that managed the Gyanvapi mosque) moved the Supreme Court on Thursday challenging the orders of the district court. The apex court, however refused to hear the matter on an urgent basis and asked the mosque committee to approach the Allahabad High Court.

 

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