Why Is ‘Scientific Survey’ Being Conducted By ASI At Gyanvapi Mosque Complex?

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is conducting scientific survey over the barricaded area of Gyanvapi mosque complex in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi.

Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi

The Supreme Court has halted Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI’s) “scientific survey” of Gyanvapi mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi till evening of July 26. 

The apex court's order came after the mosque’s management committee had filed a petition in the top court against the Varanasi district court's order allowing the survey.

Earlier, the Varanasi court had ordered an extensive survey of the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi mosque, excluding its sealed section, by ASI to ascertain whether the mosque was built over a pre-existing Hindu temple, holding that the scientific investigation is “necessary” for the “true facts” to come out.

What will ASI’s survey of Gyanvapi mosque find out?

Gyanvapi mosque land: The scientific survey will be conducted over the barricaded area of the mosque. It will ascertain whether the mosque was built over a pre-existing Hindu temple. The survey will exclude its sealed section.

Three domes: The ASI will also conduct  survey of the three domes of the Gyanvapi complex along with the western wall and the entire complex.  

Shivling: The barricaded ‘wazukhana’ is a structure that was claimed by Hindu litigants where the ‘shivling’ exists.

When will ASI submit its report to court? 

The ASI will submit its report by August 4, when the next hearing would be held.

Gyanvapi mosque case:

It was in 1991 — a year before the Babri Masjid demolition took place — that a group of sadhus in Varanasi filed a petition in the court, seeking permission to worship on the Gyanvapi mosque premises.

Thirty years later in 2021, the Allahabad High Court stayed proceedings in the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir-Gyanvapi Masjid case in a Varanasi court, suspending a ASI’s survey of the premises to determine whether a Hindu temple was partially razed to build the 17th-century mosque.

How did the current controversy on Gyanvapi mosque start?

The current controversy erupted when five Hindu women filed a case in the court. They sought to worship the Shringar Gauri and other idols within the Gyanvapi mosque complex.

The court-appointed a committee to conduct a survey and videography of the basements of the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex. The survey was stalled amid objections by the mosque committee, which claimed that the advocate commissioner appointed by the court did not have the mandate to film inside the premises. 

The committee completed its survey and videography of two basements in the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex after the exercise resumed on May 14 amid tight security arrangements.

What is the Gyanvapi mosque controversy? 

Last year in April, Uttar Pradesh court ordered a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex after the petition. 

The report of the survey was initially ordered to be submitted by May 10. However, a delay was caused after the order was challenged by Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the mosque committee.

The Gyanvapi mosque survey was concluded on May 16. 

The Hindu side in the matter has claimed that a ‘Shivling’ was found inside a reservoir on the mosque complex during the survey. The Muslim side, however, dismissed the claim and said it was only a ‘fountain’.

Politics over Gyanvapi mosque issue:

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque dispute was raised by the BJP, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the RSS during the campaign for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya along with the Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Masjid in Mathura. They claimed that all three mosques were built after demolishing Hindu temples.

The controversy has taken an expected turn as both the sides — Hindus and Muslims — have firmed up their stand. UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has said that the survey had lifted the veil on the truth.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), on the other hand, termed the court order for videography as a ‘clear violation of The Places of Worship Act, 1991 that seeks to maintain the status quo of 1947 on all places of worship. The Act has been in force since July 11, 1991.

Why Gyanvapi mosque controversy assumes significance ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha elections?

The Gyanvapi mosque located in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency, is one of the several mosques the right wing believes were built on the ruins of Hindu temples.

It was one of the three temple-mosque rows, besides Ayodhya and Mathura, which the BJP raised in the 1980s and 1990s.