A team of 30 members from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began a survey at Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque on Monday, with the aim of investigating whether the mosque was built on top of an ancient Hindu temple.
However, the survey work was halted for two days following an order from a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India. The top court directed that the survey would resume only after 5 pm on Wednesday, with strict instructions that no excavation or invasive work be carried out by ASI officials within the mosque premises.
During the survey, along with the ASI team, four women litigants and four lawyers representing the Hindu side were present at the site. Security around the mosque was heightened, and vehicular access within a 2-kilometer radius of the complex was prohibited.
The timing of the survey coincided with a Supreme Court hearing on a petition filed by the mosque management committee, challenging the Allahabad High Court’s decision to grant five Hindu women the right to worship inside the Gyanvapi mosque.
In response to a recent district court order directing the ASI to survey the Gyanvapi mosque premises, the Muslim side is urgently seeking a listing of their plea. The district judge has ordered the submission of a report, along with videos and photographs of the survey proceedings, to the court by August 4. The court has also authorized the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology to survey the area just below the three domes of the building in question and permitted excavation if necessary.
However, the survey will not include the mosque’s wazukhana, where a structure claimed by Hindu petitioners to be a shivling exists, as it is protected by an earlier Supreme Court order.
The Masjid Committee argues that the recent district court’s order allowing the ASI survey is a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s previous order, which had deferred the survey of the claimed shivling.