New Delhi: In a landmark verdict, the Varanasi district court on Wednesday allowed Hindus to worship in the Vyas basement, a disputed area within the Gyanvapi mosque complex. The court also ordered the district administration to facilitate the worship and remove the barricades that blocked the access to the basement.
The Gyanvapi mosque complex, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, has been a subject of contention between Hindus and Muslims for centuries. Hindus claim that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing a Shiva temple on the site. Muslims deny this allegation and assert their right to the mosque.
The Vyas basement, also known as ‘Vyas ji ka tehkhana’, is a small chamber on the south side of the mosque, where some Hindu idols are kept. According to the Hindu side, the basement was used for worship by the descendants of Somnath Vyas, a priest who had escaped the Mughal invasion and preserved the idols. The worship was stopped in November 1993, when the then Uttar Pradesh government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav sealed the basement and put up barricades.
The Hindu side, represented by lawyer Madan Mohan Yadav, filed a petition in the Varanasi civil court in 1991, seeking the restoration of the worship rights in the basement. The petition named Vyas ji’s grandson Shailendra Pathak as the plaintiff and the district magistrate as the receiver of the disputed property.
The Muslim side, represented by lawyer Zafaryab Jilani, opposed the petition and argued that the basement was a part of the mosque and could not be used for Hindu worship. Jilani also questioned the authenticity of the idols and the lineage of the Vyas family.
The case was heard by District Judge Ajay Krishna Vishwesh, who delivered his judgment on Wednesday after hearing the arguments of both sides on Tuesday. The judge ruled in favor of the Hindu side and granted them the right to worship in the basement. The judge also directed the district magistrate to hand over the basement to the plaintiff and the Kashi Vishwanath Trust Board and make proper arrangements for the puja and raga-blog of the idols within seven days. The judge further ordered the district administration to open the road by removing the barricading in front of Nandi Maharaj, a statue of a bull that faces the entrance of the mosque.
The verdict has been hailed as a “historic” and “turning point” by the Hindu side, who expressed their happiness and gratitude to the court. The Muslim side, however, expressed their disappointment and said they would challenge the verdict in a higher court. They also accused the court of being biased and influenced by the political climate.