Wednesday night witnessed the performance of prayers and 'aarti' inside a cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, following a court order, as confirmed by Nagendra Pandey, the president of the Kashi Vishwanath temple trust. The district court had earlier ruled that a priest could conduct prayers before the idols in the mosque's cellar, marking a significant development in the ongoing legal battle over the mosque located adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Pandey informed PTI that at approximately 10:30 pm on Wednesday, the cellar, known as Vyas ji's cellar, was opened for prayers after 31 years, in compliance with the court's orders. When asked if prayers were indeed conducted in the basement, Pandey affirmed, stating, "Yes." He emphasized the necessity of adhering to the court's directives, acknowledging the prompt arrangements made by the district administration.
District Magistrate S Rajlingam stated, "I have complied with the court’s order." Locals reported that after cleaning the cellar, an 'aarti' of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh took place.
Official sources from the district administration revealed that around 9:30 pm on Wednesday, members of the Kashi-Vishwanath Trust were called, and barricades in front of the Nandi statue facing the mosque's 'wazukhana' were removed.
The court had instructed the local administration to make arrangements within seven days for prayers in the cellar, specifying the need for "proper arrangements" with metal barricades at the complex.
Reacting to the situation, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav criticized the BJP-led government, suggesting that their haste in following the court orders aimed to prevent any legal recourse. He emphasized the importance of maintaining due process while following court orders.
The court's decision came a day after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report on the mosque complex was made public. The ASI survey, ordered by the court, suggested that the mosque was constructed during Aurangzeb's rule over the remains of a Hindu temple.
The court's order on Wednesday was in response to a plea by Shailendra Kumar Pathak, claiming that his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, offered prayers in the cellar until December 1993. The Muslim side disputed this version, asserting that there were no idols in the cellar, and hence, no prayers were offered there until 1993.
Mumtaz Ahmed, representing the Muslim side, stated, "The district judge today gave its final verdict by giving the right of worship to Hindus. We will now go to the High Court against this decision."
(With Agency Inputs)