On Thursday, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi remarked that the verdict on the Gyanvapi Masjid vs Shringar Gauri Temple case by a Varanasi court is a “blatant violation” of the Places of Worship Act, 1991, and the Supreme Court judgement on the Babri Masjid title dispute. Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar’s verdict states that the survey inside the Gyanvapi Masjid located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple will continue, giving a deadline of May 17 to submit a report.
“This is a blatant violation and I hope that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Masjid committee would go to the Supreme Court. I have lost one Babri Masjid and I don’t want to lose another masjid,” said Owaisi. Additionally, he urged the BJP-led government under Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to immediately file an FIR against “any person who tries to change the nature of religious places that stood on August 15, 1947”. “If courts find them guilty, they can be imprisoned for three years,” he added.
According to the Places of Worship Act, “No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.” Owaisi’s remarks were made in the light of the Varanasi court rejecting an application filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee last week, which sought the removal of one of the court commissioners, Ajay Mishra, over alleged biasedness on the case.
The court also dismissed the objections to opening the two closed basements in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex for the survey, and assigned two advocates to the survey commission. Judge Diwakar also directed the district magistrate and the commissioner of police to monitor the situation and file a FIR against anyone creating any hindrance in conducting the survey. This was after the judge expressed his concern over the “atmosphere of fear” created surrounding this civil case. “The fear is so much that my family is always concerned about my safety and I am concerned about their safety,” he shared.
The inspection of the Gyanvapi Masjid was ordered by the court last month when, reportedly, five Hindu women filed a petition seeking access to pray at the shrine behind the western wall of the mosque complex year-round, and sought permission to pray to other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex” that is usually opened for Hindu prayers once a year, in April. The survey began on May 6 but was subsequently halted a day later after protests by the masjid committee.
The AIMIM chief was not the only political leader who made remarks about Thursday’s verdict. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said, “This all is happening to gain political benefits, these issues will break the country. After Ram temple, peace is needed.” This comes after it was announced that Maharashtra minister Aditya Thackeray will be visiting Ayodhya in June.
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BJP leader Kapil Mishra, prior to the verdict, took to Twitter to say, “Everyone knows what is inside Gyanvapi. Everyone knows what will come out in videography. Those who want to hide the truth are stopping videography. Whether it is Gyanvapi or Krishna Janmabhoomi or Bhojshala or Qutub Minar or Taj Mahal everyone’s truth is the same how long will you hide.”
A day after the verdict was announced, on Friday, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi moved the apex court and sought urgent intervention from the Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana, and urged for a status quo order on the case. Ahmadi argued, “A survey has been directed in relation to the Varanasi property. This is covered under the Places of Worship Act. Now, the court has ordered a court commissioner to conduct a survey. This has been a mosque since time immemorial.” However, the Supreme Court has declined to stop the survey, with the CJI responding that they have neither seen the papers nor do they have enough knowledge about the matter to immediately pass an order.