The Supreme Court has issued a temporary hold on the survey conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque. The mosque’s management committee had expressed concerns about the survey potentially leading to excavations within the historic mosque complex, which stands adjacent to the revered Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The centre, responsible for the survey, assured the court that the structural integrity of the mosque would remain unaltered during the process. Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, clarified that the survey’s scope included measurements, photography, and radar studies only, with no plans for excavation.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud acknowledged the statement and confirmed that the ASI was not currently contemplating any excavation at the site. He further declared that no excavation would occur for a period of one week until the following Monday.
The Gyanvapi Mosque gained widespread attention in 2021 when a group of Hindu women sought permission from an Uttar Pradesh court to worship deities within the Gyanvapi complex. During a subsequent video survey of the complex, an object resembling a shivling was discovered, sparking debates among various groups. The mosque management committee refuted the claim, asserting that it was, in fact, a part of a fountain in the wazookhana (pool) used for pre-prayer hand and foot washing.
Considering the sensitivity of the issue, the Supreme Court took action by sealing off the wazookhana (pool) area. However, this did not settle the matter entirely. Later, the Allahabad High Court dismissed the mosque committee’s petition challenging the maintainability of the request to worship Hindu deities found within the premises.
Following the Allahabad High Court’s ruling, the Varanasi court allowed the ASI to conduct a survey inside the mosque complex, except for the restricted pool area. However, the mosque committee approached the Supreme Court, expressing concerns about potential excavation activities that could disrupt the site’s sanctity.
With the latest order from the Supreme Court, the petitioners are now permitted to approach the Allahabad High Court to challenge the ASI survey order. The Supreme Court has also directed the high court’s registrar to ensure that the matter is promptly presented before a bench before the status quo order expires.
The Gyanvapi Mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex are of immense historical and cultural significance, attracting devotees and tourists alike. Preserving the heritage and respecting the sentiments of all parties involved remain crucial objectives for the authorities.
As the legal proceedings continue, the nation awaits the resolution that will balance the demands of religious freedom, historical preservation, and communal harmony. The Supreme Court’s decision to put the survey on hold reflects the thoughtful consideration being given to this delicate issue.
The mosque, with its rich history and architectural splendor, stands as a symbol of India’s diverse and inclusive heritage. The ongoing court proceedings underscore the nation’s commitment to upholding secular values while safeguarding its past for future generations.