Court grants Hindu demands in Gyanvapi mosque
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Hindus have scored a first court victory against Muslims in the controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque. This could lead to another Ayodhya, which, 30 years ago, sparked a wave of sectarian violence culminating in a massacre.
This morning the Varanasi District Court, Uttar Pradesh, rejected a petition by the Anjuman Intezamia Committee (representing Muslims) opposing a request by Hindus to celebrate religious services (devoted to Hindu deities) in the Islamic place of worship.
Shortly after the verdict, Hindus welcomed the news with songs and dances. “Bharat (India) is happy,” shouted Manju Vyas, one of the five women who brought the case to court. “My Hindu brothers and sisters should light diyas (candles) and celebrate.”
In light of the situation, the authorities have deployed more than 2,000 officers in the area around the mosque and the Hindu temple of Kashi Vishwanath, which stands next to the Islamic place of worship, to enforce security and avert unrest. Several religious leaders have called for calm and peace.
Judge AK Vishvesh ruled that the petition filed by Hindus was admissible, rejecting the claims of exclusivity made by lawyers representing the Anjuman Intezamia Committee, which plans to appeal to the High Court in Allahabad.
The quarrel over the centuries-old Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s most sacred cities, has been dragging on for a long time, fuelling fresh tensions between India’s two largest religious groups.
Hindu organisations claim that the mosque, located in the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was built following the demolition of a Hindu temple at the hands of Muslim rulers in the 17th century.
To back that claim, a group of five Hindu women asked for permission to perform rituals related to their faith in one section of the mosque, leading to the case going to court.
Last May, the court ordered a video-survey of the building and opened an investigation to vet the claims of the two sides. According to Hindus, video footage shows a representation of Shiva, which Muslims dispute.
In many ways, the Gyanvapi story is a repeat of the Ayodhya affair, which led to violence between Hindus and Muslims that resulted in the 1992 massacre, when a group of Hindu extremists razed a 16th-century mosque to the ground and built a temple on the site, which they claim is the birthplace of the god Rama.
In the clashes that followed, some 2,000 people died, undermining India’s secular and multicultural dream of its early years of independence.
The Supreme Court also got involved in the dispute with a ruling on 9 November 2019, deciding that the Ayodhya site belonged to Hindus, but at the same time ruling that the destruction of the mosque was illegal. It granted Muslims the right to build another place of worship, offering five acres of land to the Muslim community in the village of Dhannipur.