This Article is From Sep 14, 2022

What's Next In Gyanvapi Mosque Case? A Look At How Things Will Unfold

Gyanvapi Mosque Case: After Varansi court's order to hear Hindu plea for worship all year round in Gyanvapi mosque, slogans invoking Ayodhya and Mathura get new life

What's Next In Gyanvapi Mosque Case? A Look At How Things Will Unfold

A court's decision to hear a plea by five Hindu women for year-round worship rights in Varanasi's Gyanvapi Masjid complex sets in motion another case with overlaps between religion, politics, and the law. The case will now be heard on September 22.

Located next to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Gyanvapi mosque is one of three that make up the marquee slogan — "Ayodhya toh jhaanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai" — that the BJP and other Hindutva outfits brought to the national stage in the 1980s, claiming that several mosques are built on demolished temples. "Ayodhya is a mere trailer; Kashi and Mathura are next," says the slogan.

While the Ayodhya land — on which the Babri Masjid was razed in 1992 — has already been handed to the Hindu side for a Ram Mandir, in Mathura a clutch of petitions have been filed against the Shahi Idgah, a prominent mosque located next to the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

All three are in Uttar Pradesh, a BJP stronghold; and Varanasi happens to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency.

Similar claims are being made on historical structures such as Delhi's Qutub Minar.

The dispute in Kashi

The Gyanvapi case will basically settle whether a group of Hindu women can pray daily to "visible and invisible gods" inside the mosque complex. They are already allowed once a year to pray to some idols there.

Muslim petitioners have decided to approach the High Court with the argument that the petition shouldn't be heard at all.

At the core of the argument is an Act of 1991, which says places of worship be allowed to exist as they were on August 15, 1947, the day India got independence from the British. This law had excluded the then-ongoing Ayodhya dispute but was meant to stem other such cases.

But the Varanasi court, in its September 12 order, said the demand is "not to convert" the mosque into a temple anyway, but "only" for a right to "worship" at the "disputed" property all year round.

The case stems from five Hindu women's plea of August 2021. The Muslim petitioners went to the Supreme Court, which said the district judge should first decide whether the case is even valid.

In its order yesterday, the judge rejected three main arguments of the Muslim side.

"The petition does not seek ownership of the property," the court said, thus deciding that it's not barred by the Places of Worship Act, 1991. In the 26 page-order, judge AK Vishvesh spoke about two other laws — Waqf Act 1995 and Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act 1983 — saying that these, too, do not bar the plea. The order says the property is "disputed", though the Muslim side argues that's not correct.

Old battle, newer fronts

The order sparked celebrations among Hindu believers. "Our brothers and sisters should light lamps to celebrate," said Manju Vyas, one of the petitioners.

The BJP is elated as well. Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak said he felt "a wave of happiness". "It's their (Muslim side's) right (to challenge the order in the High Court) but we'll respect the judgment, and strengthen the law and order situation in the state," he added.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur said it's a welcome decision, "Everyone needs to be quiet now and let the courts do their work."

Several Opposition parties have said the order is against the spirit of the law, and will lead to social distrust.

On the legal front, lawyer Akhlaq Ahmed confirmed that the mosque committee will file an appeal: "The Supreme Court had said the losing party could approach the High Court."

On the day of the Varanasi court order, a new case was filed in Mathura seeking the shifting of Meena Masjid. It adds to demands for shifting of the Shahi Masjid Idgah, which petitioners say is built over the birthplace of Lord Krishna within the 13-acre Katra Keshav Deo temple complex.

A tweet by another Deputy Chief Minister of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya, put it succinctly: "Karvat leti Mathura, Kashi! (Varanasi and Mathura are stirring)."