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Places of Worship Act does not apply to Gyanvapi, says VHP

A file photo of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dham and Gyanvapi Masjid complex, in Varanasi. The mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple.

A file photo of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dham and Gyanvapi Masjid complex, in Varanasi. The mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has claimed that The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act,1991, which mandates that the character of all religious places of worship should be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947, does not apply to the Gyanvapi Mosque dispute in Varanasi.

The Hindu right-wing outfit claims that there has been no change in the status of the religious structure since 1947 and that Hindus have always performed puja at the site. VHP international working president Alok Kumar said that the site where the “Shivling” was found was a temple and had been so even in 1947. He referred to it as the Gyanvapi Mandir.

Civil Judge, senior division, Ravi Kumar Diwakar on Monday ordered that a portion of the Gyanvapi Mosque premises be sealed after lawyers representing five Hindu plaintiffs claimed that a “Shivling” was found in the ablution water tank of the mosque on the concluding day of a court commissioner-led video inspection. The caretakers of the mosque, however, asserted that the object was a part of a stone fountain.

“It was always a temple”

Mr. Kumar said, ”the place where the Shivling is, is a temple and it was one even in 1947. This has become self-evident.” He hoped that all citizens of the country would acknowledge and honour the “evidence” and the county would move towards its “natural culmination.”

On Tuesday, VHP national spokesperson Vinod Bansal said the Places of Worship Act, 1991 did not hinder the outfit’s view that the site where the “Shivling” was found was in essence a temple.

“We clearly believe that the status of the mandir never changed. It is a different matter that sometimes puja was regular and at other times it was official,” said Mr. Bansal. “We believe that it was a mandir in 1947 as puja was done then. And today there should be puja... and it is being done,” he said.

Mr. Bansal said the 1991 Act applied only to those structures whose status one wanted to change. “You want to make something else after breaking a structure.... it [the Act] might impact that. But we were doing Puja in 1947 and are still doing it today,” he said.

BJP MLA Siddharth Nath Singh asked the Congress to explain why it had brought the Places of Worship Act, 1991. “Wasn’t it to please a section of minorities at the peak of the Babri dispute, and why accept cut-off date of 1947 determined by a colonial power? Time for Congress to answer,” Mr. Singh tweeted.

“It is a conspiracy”

While legal experts and the Gyanvapi Mosque caretakers have argued that the lower court’s orders to seal the mosque’s ablution tank was in conflict with the Places of Worship Act, 1991, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has asserted that Gyanvapi was “a mosque and will remain to be a mosque.” The attempt to call it a temple was nothing more than a conspiracy to create communal disharmony, said AIMPLB general secretary Khalid Saifullah Rahmani.

In 1937, in the Deen Mohammad vs State Secretary case, a court had decided on the basis of oral testimony and documents that the entire compound of the Gyanvapi Mosque belonged to the Muslim Waqf and Muslims had the right to offer namaz in it, said Mr. Rahmani. The court also decided how much of the disputed land belonged to the mosque and how much of it was a temple, said Mr. Rahmani in a statement.

Senior advocate S. Farman Naqvi, who argues the Mosque committee’s case in the Allahabad High Court, says the object claimed to be a “Shivling” by the Hindu plaintiffs was not evidence. “It is not evidence just because the applicant is interpreting it in some way. It is to be decided by the court,” he said.

Mr. Naqvi also expressed concern that rather than the advocate commissioner appointed by the court, it was the Hindu plaintiffs whose application on the discovery of the “Shivling” was submitted and accepted by the civil judge. That too before the due date of May 17 when the findings of the court commission proceedings were to be submitted in court in a sealed cover, Mr. Naqvi said.


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 11:53:05 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/places-of-worship-act-does-not-apply-to-gyanvapi-says-vhp/article65422403.ece