NEW DELHI, May 17: The Supreme Court has directed the Varanasi District Magistrate to ensure that the area where the “Shivling” was claimed to had been found in the Gyanvapi Mosque complex should be protected but without impeding Muslims from coming to the mosque for namaz.
The Supreme Court’s order came on Tuesday during the hearing of a petition by the mosque committee that sought a direction to the authorities in Varanasi to stop the filming of the mosque complex. The petition was filed in the apex court after a Varanasi local court on Monday ordered “sealing” of the area where the advocates for the Hindu petitioners claimed to have “found” a “Shivling” under the ablution tank of the mosque. The “Shivling” was said to be found during a court-mandated filming of the mosque complex following a petition seeking access to pray at a shrine behind the mosque.
The Supreme Court asked the Varanasi administration where exactly the ‘Shivling‘ (symbol of Lord Shiva) was found inside Gyanvapi mosque in the Uttar Pradesh city. “Where exactly was the ‘Shivling‘ found?” Justice DY Chandrachud said.
“We haven’t seen the report,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Uttar Pradesh government, replied, and sought time till Wednesday to return with details. Mehta said the place where the ‘Shivling‘ was found was sealed to avoid any law and order issues if someone who came to offer namaz (prayers) touched it with their feet. The ‘Shivling‘ was said to be found in a pond, used for “wazoo” or purification rituals before namaz, he said. Muslim petitioners rejected the assertion, claiming it was a “piece of a fountain, not a Shivling.”
During the Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday, the Muslim petitioners questioned how the city court ordered the place to be sealed when the report of the committee, which surveyed the complex, has not been submitted yet. “How did the court proceed based on the submission of the other party and seal the place? Look at the way the orders are passed,” the Muslim petitioners told the Supreme Court.
The Gyanvapi mosque stands next to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple. Five women petitioners have asked the court to allow daily prayers before idols on its outer walls as well as other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex”. The site is currently open for prayers by Hindus once a year. The Varanasi Civil Court ordered a video assessment of the mosque complex, including three domes, underground basements and the pond, and appointed court commissioners for the task after the women petitioners had filed the plea.