The district court of Varanasi has ordered that the keys of the basement in the Gyanvapi complex, known as “Vyas ji ka tehkhana”, be handed over to the district magistrate. The court said that there is a need for taking proper care of the basement, which was used for worship by a priest before it was locked in 1993.
Gyanvapi complex: A site of dispute
The Gyanvapi complex, which houses the Gyanvapi mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple, is a site of dispute between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The Hindu side claims that the mosque was built over a temple by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. The Muslim side denies this allegation and says that the mosque is a historical monument.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is conducting a scientific survey of the complex, excluding the water tank or Wuzu Khana, to determine whether the mosque was constructed over a temple. The survey began on August 4, 2023, following the Allahabad High Court’s order, which was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Court appoints Varanasi DM as receiver of basement
On January 18, 2024, the district court of Varanasi passed an order that the keys of the basement in the Gyanvapi complex, known as “Vyas ji ka tehkhana”, be handed over to the district magistrate. The court said that there is a need for taking proper care of the basement of Vyas ji located at the southern end of the complex.
The basement was used for worship by Somnath Vyas, a priest, until it was barricaded and locked in 1993. The Hindu side’s counsel Madan Mohan Yadav had filed a petition seeking the handing over of the keys to the district magistrate, fearing that the contents of the basement could be tampered with.
The court appointed the district magistrate of Varanasi as the receiver of the basement and directed him to take necessary steps for its preservation and protection.
Cleaning of water tank scheduled for January 20
The court also allowed the cleaning of the water tank or Wuzu Khana in the Gyanvapi complex, after the Uttar Pradesh government requested permission for the same, citing the presence of dead fish in the tank. The cleaning of the water tank is scheduled for January 20, 2024, between 9 and 11 am.
Two representatives each from the Hindu and Muslim sides will be present during the cleaning work, but they will not be allowed to cross the fence of the water tank. Only the cleanliness workers can cross the fence. The cleaning will be done under tight security and no unauthorized entry will be permitted.
The water tank, which houses a structure claimed to be a ‘Shivling’ by Hindu litigants, is not part of the ASI survey, as per the Supreme Court’s order.
ASI submits survey report in sealed cover
The ASI has submitted its survey report of the Gyanvapi complex in a sealed cover to the district court on December 18, 2023. The report has not been made public yet, which is “a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s August 4 judgment”, according to the Muslim side’s counsel SFA Naqvi.
The ASI survey was conducted using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and other techniques to examine the structural features of the complex. The survey was carried out by a team of 41 members, including experts from IITs, under the supervision of the court.
The survey report is expected to shed light on the historical and archaeological aspects of the complex and the controversy surrounding it.