The court-mandated three-day videography survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi has ended a day before the next hearing of the case in court.
In a claim that's sure to ruffle feathers, the lawyer representing the Hindu women has claimed that a shiva linga has been found in the pond inside the mosque complex. "The pond was used for ablution (wuzu) purification rituals," lawyer Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi said, adding that water was drained from the pond and a shiva linga was allegedly found.
A Varanasi court has now ordered the immediate sealing off of the pond after a plea from the petitioners. It directed the Varanasi District Magistrate to ensure that nobody is allowed to enter the area.
The Varanasi DM had earlier said that no details of the survey of Gyanvapi mosque were disclosed by any member of the commission. "The court is the custodian of the information about the survey. One member was debarred from the commission for about a few minutes yesterday, later admitted to the commission," he said and claimed that the one person has expressed some opinion which is their personal view.
The last day of filming began this morning amid tight security and restrictions near the complex.
"The survey commission has completed its work today. It has filmed all the places in detail. Three domes, underground basements, pond...all have been video recorded. The advocate commissioner will submit his report in the court tomorrow which will be prepared by the three commission members today. If the report is not finished on time, we will ask the court for more time," the government lawyer Mahendra Prasad Pandey told NDTV, adding that the entire process was peaceful.
The Anjuman Intejamiya Masjid management committee of the Gyanvapi mosque has petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the survey. A two-member bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud will hear the matter on Tuesday. The petition states that the Allahabad High Court had already stayed the original suit filed in 1991 but another petition was filed in 2021 just to bypass it. Both the 1991 and 2021 petitions are against the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 which a five-bench of the Supreme Court had also endorsed during the Ayodhya judgement.
Till Sunday, around 65 per cent of the survey was completed.
The mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and the local court is hearing a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily prayers before the idols on its outer walls.
Five Hindu women have sought year-long access to pray at the shrine behind the mosque. The site is currently open for prayers once a year. The women also want permission to pray to other "visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex".
A part of this survey took place on May 6 but was halted after a dispute broke out over filming inside the mosque. The mosque committee said the court had not ordered videography inside the mosque. The petitioners' lawyer, however, insisted that the court had given a go-ahead.
Hearing the matter last week, the local court had ordered videography can happen at all places asked for by the petitioners.
Vikram Shukla, a lawyer for petitioners, told NDTV on the first day of filming that they were satisfied with the proceedings.
"We accessed all the areas that the petitioners wanted. We told the commissioner about it and he in turn coordinated with the opposite side. There were clear orders that legal action would be taken against anyone who tried to stop the process but nothing of this sort happened," Mr Shukla had said.
A lawyer representing the Gyanvapi Mosque trust that approached the Supreme Court against the filming order saying it is at odds with the Places of Worship Act, 1991, claimed nothing unusual was found during the survey. "First everyone went inside, two locks to basements were opened, one was broken because it was old and rusted. There were just normal rooms. I don't think anything of significance was found," Mr Tauhwed said in an interview with NDTV on May 14.