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Gyanvapi Dispute: Over 30-member ASI team enters mosque premises under heavy security to begin survey


On Monday morning, a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) started a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. People with knowledge of the situation claimed on Sunday that the survey is taking place despite the mosque management committee’s petition to the Supreme Court against the district court’s order permitting the inspection.

The ASI crew arrived in Varanasi on Sunday with all the necessary tools. A UP Police squad can be seen entering the Gyanvapi mosque compound as the ASI assessment started in a video that news agency ANI released. There are about 40 people involved, including representatives from ASI, the management committee at the Gyanvapi mosque, four plaintiffs who identify as Hindu women, and their solicitors.

Besides the ASI team, which entered the complex around 7 am, the lawyers of all the Hindu petitioners to the legal dispute are also present at the spot, Madan Mohan Yadav, one of the counsel, said.

Survey necessary for ‘true facts’ to be revealed

Late on Sunday evening, District Magistrate (DM) S Rajalingam had said the ASI team had reached Varanasi and the survey proceedings inside the Gyanvapi mosque campus would begin from 7 am on Monday. Varanasi Police Commissioner Ashok Mutha Jain and the DM held a meeting with both the Hindu and Muslim sides to the dispute on Sunday night to share information about the survey with them.

The Varanasi district court ordered the ASI to conduct a thorough assessment of the Gyanvapi masjid on Friday in order to determine whether the mosque was constructed atop an earlier Hindu temple. The court reasoned that this scientific inquiry is “necessary” in order for the “true facts” to be revealed. However, the court ruled that the disputed part of the complex be excluded because it has been sealed since the Supreme Court’s judgement in May 2022. Muslims contend that the area under the seal is actually a portion of a fountain, whereas Hindus assert that a Shivling has been discovered there.

The alleged “shivling,” which was discovered when another court requested a video survey of the facility, had already been ordered by the Supreme Court to be protected. The mosque’s “wazookhana” (a small reservoir for Muslim devotees to perform ritual ablutions), where a structure claimed by the Hindu litigants to be a “Shivling” exists, will not be part of the survey, following an earlier SC order protecting that spot in the complex.

The judge has directed the ASI to submit a report to the court by August 4, along with video clips and photographs of the survey proceedings.

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