Gyanvapi dispute | Rift among Hindu plaintiffs widens amid barrage of allegations

Plaintiff Rakhi Singh wants her suit to be treated separately

July 12, 2022 10:28 pm | Updated 10:29 pm IST - New Delhi

An Aerial view shows Gyanvapi mosque, left, and Kashiviswanath temple on the banks of the river Ganges in Varanasi. File

An Aerial view shows Gyanvapi mosque, left, and Kashiviswanath temple on the banks of the river Ganges in Varanasi. File | Photo Credit: AP

The split between the Hindu plaintiffs and lawyers representing them in the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath temple civil dispute has only grown since it appeared first in May this year, with plaintiff number 1, Rakhi Singh, on Tuesday approaching the district court in Varanasi with a prayer to essentially separate her suit from the others’.

This, even as the remaining four plaintiffs (Manju Vyas, Sita Sahu, Rekha Pathak, and Lakshmi Devi) and their lawyers started questioning the bona fide of Ms. Singh, who is being legally represented in court by her uncle Jitender Singh Visen, the chief of the Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh (VVSS).

In the application filed on Tuesday, Mr. Singh has submitted that advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, whose team is representing the four other plaintiffs in the case, had a conflict of interest in the suit. Mr. Singh said: “He is a standing counsel of the Uttar Pradesh government in the Supreme Court and the suit has the U.P. government as one of the defendants.”

Mr. Jain, his father Hari Shankar Jain and their legal team, who have been at the forefront of arguments in the Gyanvapi matter so far, also represent the Hindu plaintiffs in the Mathura Shahi Idgah mosque dispute and the Qutb Minar appeal in Delhi. They had also represented the Hindu side in the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi case.

Saying that the Masjid panel might use Mr. Jain’s alleged conflict of interest to get their suit dismissed entirely, Mr. Singh added he did not want his suit to be affected by any orders the court passes considering the retention of Mr. Jain. “This is what the application is for,” he said.

Mr. Jain told The Hindu, “There is no conflict here. I have secured a no-objection certificate from the U.P. government on June 15 to file this suit and have submitted this in court on Tuesday.”

Mr. Singh is involved in three separate suits with regards to the Gyanvapi dispute — one filed through Rakhi Singh (along with four other Hindu women), one through his wife Kiran Singh and another as the “next friend” of deity Adi Vishveshwar.

The split between the plaintiffs in the Gyanvapi dispute first started appearing in early May when Mr. Singh said he filed an application to separate one of his suits from the rest, prompting Mr. Jain and his team to allege that he was “withdrawing” the suit to harm the cause of the deity and Hindu worshippers.

On May 31, Mr. Singh made an official announcement to drop Mr. Jain and his father as their lawyers in the matter, following which the dispute between the two has only escalated. Since then, both have alleged that the other was “parachuted” into the case, both have claimed they were the ones who did the “initial work” on the suits, and both have claimed the other was conspiring against the cause of Hindus and the deity in question - denying all allegations levelled against them.

Mr. Singh has also gone as far as sending a complaint against Mr. Jain and certain media houses, through the national working president of VVSS, to the Union Home Ministry, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Press Council of India and the National Broadcasters’ & Digital Association - alleging that Mr. Jain and his team entered the case as late as May 26 and were being “misrepresented” as leading the legal team for the Hindu plaintiffs.

“I am still representing four plaintiffs in the suit. Even in the Supreme Court Vakalatnama of May 19, I am the lawyer for Rakhi Singh in this matter. How is this wrong?” Mr. Jain asked.

He added, “The question that should be asked is how Mr. Singh entered the suit. He approached my father in December 2019 and wanted to be part of our work. We insisted that the suit should be filed on behalf of the women and so he brought a power of attorney of Rakhi Singh. Who is Rakhi Singh? No one seems to have seen her in court so far?”

Meanwhile, Mr. Jain and his team on Monday launched the Shri Adi Mahadev Kashi Dharmalaya Mukti Nyas, a registered trust that he said was meant to coordinate all legal efforts in the six suits related to the Gyanvapi dispute that they were fighting. “Of course, this will exclude Mr. Singh or anyone related to him since he no longer wants us to represent him,” Mr. Jain said.

After announcing the split with the Jains, Mr. Singh had said the VVSS has a legal advisory board and that their lawyers would be arguing on their behalf in court.

The rift between Mr. Singh and the other plaintiffs and the Jains has grown to a point where VVSS lawyers were arguing with the Jains over who should be allowed to oppose the Masjid panel’s plea first in Tuesday’s hearing.

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