Rajat Sharma

Gyanvapi discovery: Is it a Shivling or fountain?

rajat-sirCentral Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel have been deployed at the Gyanvapi complex, where the ‘Shivling’ is said to have been found from the ‘wazukhana’ (ablution pond), and CRPF personnel will guard the area round-the-clock. This follows an interim order by the Supreme Court, which directed the District Magistrate of Varanasi to ‘ensure the protection of the area’ in Gyanvapi-shringar Gauri complex, where the ‘Shivling’ was found during the survey by court-appointed commissioners on Monday.

The bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha, however, refused to stay the proceedings on Gyanvapi controversy going on before the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) in Varanasi. The apex court was hearing an application by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, which looks after the management of Gyanvapi mosque, seeking stay on the proceedings in local court, alleging that the Civil Judge had issued a series of orders which are unconstitutional. This plea for stay was however rejected by the bench.

The apex court however allowed Muslim devotees to offer namaaz at the mosque and perform religious observances even when the area ‘wazukhana’ (ablution pond) is secured by security forces. Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, while appearing for Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, told the bench that without ‘wazu’ by Muslim devotees, offering namaaz would have no meaning in Islam.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for UP government, told the bench that since the place where ‘Shivling’ was said to have been found is the one where Muslims perform ‘wazu’ (ablution), any damage to the Shivling may create a law and order problem. “They can perform wazu somewhere else if it is necessary, but the area where the Shivling was said to have been found needs protection”, Tushar Mehta told the court.

Huzefa Ahmadi, the lawyer for the Muslim side, alleged that “under the garb of proceedings, the status quo of the mosque is sought to be altered. These orders of the civil court should be stayed, the commissioner (for survey) should be stayed and status quo prior to the proceedings should be restored.” He referred to Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and its Section 4 which bars filing of any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for a conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947.

The apex court however posted the plea of Anjuman Intezamia Masjid for hearing on Thursday (May 19) and issued notices to the Hindu plaintiffs in this case.

Meanwhile, in a simultaneous development on Tuesday, the Civil Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar removed the advocate commissioner Ajay Mishra for showing ‘irresponsible behaviour towards the discharge of his duties’. The court allowed the commissioners to file their survey report on Gyanvapi complex within two days. The Civil Judge, in his order, said, when a court appoints an advocate as commissioner, his position is that of a public servant and it was expected of him to discharge his duties with honesty and impartiality, and shall not give an irresponsible statement.

The Civil Judge gave this order after Special Advocate Commissioner Vishal Singh told the court that Ajay Mishra had deployed a personal cameraman R. P. Singh who was giving “wrong bytes in the media on a regular basis”. By evening, Mishra however clarified that he had done nothing wrong and he was betrayed by his fellow advocate Vishal Singh. “He took advantage of my trusting nature”, Mishra said.

The core issue of the Gyanvapi dispute is whether the stone found on Monday was a Shivling or a fountain, as the Muslim side claims. Lawyers for Hindu side claim that it is a several hundred years old Shivling which directly faces the Nandi (bull) idol that already exists. The Muslim side claims that the stone which is claimed to 450-year-old Shivling of ‘Baba’ (Lord Shiva), is actually a fountain in the middle of ‘wazukhana’. The Hindu side, on Tuesday, placed several evidences in support of its claim.

The first reaction on Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the civil court proceedings came from AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. He said, the apex court has not barred ‘wazu’ (ablution) since it is a religious practice, but he was dissatisfied with the apex court order. Owaisi had expected the apex court to stay the civil court proceedings, but it did not happen. He went on to allege that the current proceedings going on in the civil court was a ‘mockery of law’. He also alleged that the manner in which the civil court was issuing series of orders without hearing the pleas of the Muslim side, can open up a Pandora’s Box, as fresh disputes are being raised about other mosques.

Owaisi is angry since the time the civil court ordered survey of Gyanpavi mosque, and he did not get the relief that he expected from the apex court. Owaisi threatened that if things continued in this manner, the nation will be put back by 40 years, when communal tension prevailed across the country. Owaisi also tried to prove that the developments taking place in Gyanvapi complex was part of a well-planned ‘conspiracy’.

Owaisi raised three questions. First, he described the lower court’s orders as illegal and against law. Second, he alleged that by raking up the Gyanvapi issue, the Places of Worship Act of 1991 was being violated. Third, he made a new allegation that an idol of Nandi was brought to Gyanvapi complex and buried when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to lay the foundation of Kashi Vishwanath corridor. In short, Owaisi is saying that whatever that is happening in the court is against legal process and judicial impartiality was not being followed. I spoke to several legal experts about Owaisi’s charges and this is what emerged.

First, a member of the survey team claimed that the stone found was that of a Shivling, while the Muslim side is trying to prove that it is a fountain. A Lawyer, Mohammed Asad Hayat posted a video on social media on Monday night, that was retweeted by Owaisi. Nobody knows the date when this video was recorded. It claimed that the stone said to be the Shivling was not hidden in water, but wsa clearly visible, when the ‘wazukhana’ was being cleaned with water.

The Muslim side, claims there is a hole in the fountain, and it will be incorrect to say it is a Shivling. But the video clearly shows that some stones were added to the Shivling to give it the shape of a fountain. Secondly, why is such a wide stone required for a small ablution pond (wazukhana)? Thirdly, if there was a fountain, why was it not in use? Fourthly, the survey team claims that there is a path near the ‘wazukhana’ that leads further underground, which is now closed. It could be that the remaining part of Shivling is hidden there.

It is also being asked whether a four feet wide black stone ‘fountain’ has ever been installed in any mosque across the world? Nobody can say about this definitely. Experts said, a small pipe is sufficient for running a fountain, there could be design from all four sides, but if it was a structural design, then what was the necessity of hiding it by erecting a nine-inch-wide wall around it? Even if it is claimed that is actually a fountain, let us wait for a proper investigation of the stone. Let a camera go to the underground ‘tehkhana’ (basement below the ‘wazukhana’. The truth, naturally, will be out for all to see.

Owaisi said one more thing. He said, a ‘Nandi’ (bull) idol was buried in Gyanvapi complex when Modi came to lay the foundation of Kashi Vishwanath corridor. He alleged this was part of a conspiracy and was done after preparations and planning. It has nothing to do with the belief of Hindus. Owaisi is a barrister, but at the same time, he is also a clever politician. He knows what to say, and when. Owaisi made this allegation based on a report published in a magazine. But he ignored those reports which the live camera showed.

For any visitor to Varanasi, it is clearly visible that there is a huge Nandi idol installed in front of the western gate of Gyanvapi mosque. Lakhs of devotees have seen this Nandi idol. The Nandi idol faces the ‘wazukhana’, which is 83 feet away, and from where the Shivling has been found. This Nandi idol was installed several hundred years ago. Then, where was the need to bury a small Nandi idol at Gyanvapi complex? What could have been the advantage.

There are hundreds of images in social media about the huge Nandi idol that faces the Gyanvapi complex. One of the picture was taken in the year 1880, at least 140 years ago. This image was shared by Radharaman Das, the vice-president and spokesperson of ISKCON. Along with this picture, he had posted the image of a royal ‘firman’(order) issued by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ordering demolition of Kashi Vishwanath temple.

There is another photo of Nandi idol, which was shared by Supreme Court lawyer Shashank Shekhar Jha on Twitter with the caption saying Nandi Maharaj has been waiting for 400 years. Nandi Maharaj is also being taken as an importance evidence in the Gyanvapi dispute. The picture was taken in the year 1890. Earlier there was no roof over Nandi idol, later straws were used as cover, and much later, a structure was erected.

Owaisi had said emphatically, “Gyanvapi Masjid was there in Varanasi, is there, and shall remain there till the Day of Judgement (Qayamat). In plain words, Owaisi claims that the Masjid was built without demolishing any temple, the old historical data lie in the Official Gazette prepared by British rulers. Owaisi should read the Gazette. From pages 25 to 75, the authentic history of Kashi is narrated. It says, on April 9, 1669, Aurangzeb issued a ‘firman’ (order) to the Fauzdar of Kashi to destroy two temples – Vishwanath and Madhav mandir. Owaisi cannot say, this Gazette was written by the current dispensation.

The main point is: It is unnecessary to question whether a mosque was built after razing the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Some Muslim leaders gave this argument that if Aurangzeb could raze a huge temple like Kashi Vishwanath, why should he have left the Shivling? Hindu leaders reply that the dome of Gyanvapi Masjid was made with the help of the walls of the temple. The Nandi idol faces the mosque, the Shivling was found from ‘wzukhana’. The invaders of that period had done this to insult the Hindu society.

These matters have nothing to do with legal or judicial issues. It is a matter of faith. As far as facts are concerned, history books and documents clearly say that Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed Chintamani Prashvanath temple in 1645, Siddhgwali temple in Gwalior in 1664, tried to demolish Somnath temple in Gujart in 1665, destroyed Bhimadevi temple in Pinjar, Haryana, razed Kashi Vishwanath temple in 1669, demolished Govind Dev temple in Vrinadavan and Keshav Raj temple in Mathura in 1670, and also destroyed Chausath Yogini temple in Morena, MP in 1685. The list is too long.

Owaisi says, if one starts preparing a list, the RSS can come up with a list of 30,000 such mosques. How many mosques will you hunt for, asks Owaisi. Already, All India Muslim Personal Law Board has called an emergency meeting. In the Gyanvapi case, the Muslim side’s claim appears to be weak.

Those who say that the Gyanvapi issue cannot be taken up in court because of Places of Worship Act, 1991 promises status quo for all religious places prior to 1947, must read the petition filed in Civil Judge’s court by the five Hindu female plaintiffs. It says that there used to be daily prayers from 1947 till 1991 in Shringar Gauri temple adjoining Gyanvapi mosque, and permission must be given for daily prayers again. This prayer is not legally weak. There are other disputes in the pipeline, the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Eidgah in Mathura, the Bhoj Shala in Dhar, MP and several others.

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