A Varanasi court gave directions Friday for a “scientific investigation/survey/excavation” of the Gyanvapi mosque premises by the Archaeological Survey of India and asked it to “find out” whether the “present structure” was “constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple”.
Allowing an application by four Hindu women petitioners, District and Sessions Judge Dr Ajaya Krishna Vishvesha, in his order, directed the ASI to “conduct Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey just below the 3 domes of the building in question and conduct excavation if required”.
The survey will exclude the wuzukhana area which was sealed last year on the orders of the Supreme Court after Hindu litigants pointed to the presence there of what they identified as a Shivling — Muslim litigants say the object is a fountain.
Instructing that the survey proceedings be videographed, the court said a report must be submitted to it before August 4.
The women petitioners had filed a suit seeking the right to worship Maa Shringar Gauri on the outer wall of the Gyanvapi mosque complex, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
In its order, the court directed the ASI Director to “undertake the scientific investigation/survey/excavation at the property in question i.e. settlement plot number 9130 (Gyanvapi mosque)”.
The court said areas sealed by the Supreme Court will be excluded from the survey.
“The Director of ASI is also directed to conduct a detailed scientific investigation by using GPR Survey, Excavation, Dating method and other modern techniques of the present structure to find out… whether the same has been constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple,” the order stated.
It directed the ASI to investigate the age and nature of construction of the western wall of the building in question through scientific methods.
It also called for a GPR survey beneath the ground of all the cellars and to conduct excavation, if required.
It told the ASI to “prepare a list of all the artefacts which are found in the building specifying their contents and carry out scientific investigation and undertake dating exercises to find out the age and nature of construction”.
The ASI director, it said, must ensure that no damage is done to the “structure standing on the disputed land and it remains intact and unharmed”.
The Hindu litigants contend that the mosque was built on the site of the original Kashi Vishwanath temple. Muslim litigants maintain that the mosque was built on Waqf premises, and that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 barred changing the character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
Speaking to The Deccan Era, special counsel for the Gyanvapi matters before the Varanasi court, Rajesh Mishra said, “The application filed by the four women seeking a survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises by the ASI was allowed by the district court. The court has said that the survey must be done without causing any harm to the structure. The court has also said that the survey will exclude the area which was sealed last year after the Shivling was found there. The wuzukhana area where the Shivling was found was sealed on orders of the Supreme Court.”
Advocate Hari Shankar Jain, who is representing the four women, said the court has allowed the ASI survey and has directed the ASI to submit a preliminary report, explaining how the survey will be done.
“We had filed the application seeking the ASI survey a few months ago. We had argued that the structure (mosque) was built on a temple under the rule of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. We had argued that through the ASI survey, this can be proved – that the mosque was built after destroying a temple of Baba Bhole Nath,” Jain said.
Advocate Tauheed Khan, who represented the Anjuman Intezamia Mosque committee in the court, said the Muslim side will decide its next action after going through the written order.
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Reached for comment, ASI director and spokesperson Vasant Swarnkar told The Indian Express, “We are yet to get a copy of the order, but we shall follow the order of the court.”
– With Divya A in New Delhi