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Court orders sealing of spot; Gyanvapi mosque panel denies

A local court on Monday ordered the sealing of a pond in the Gyanvapi Masjid complex after lawyers representing the Hindu petitioners said a Shivling was found there during the court-mandated videography survey.

Court orders sealing of spot; Gyanvapi mosque panel denies
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Court orders sealing of spot; Gyanvapi mosque panel denies

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Varanasi: A local court on Monday ordered the sealing of a pond in the Gyanvapi Masjid complex after lawyers representing the Hindu petitioners said a Shivling was found there during the court-mandated videography survey. A mosque management committee member disputed the claim, saying the object was part of the water fountain mechanism at the "wazookhana" reservoir -– where devotees carry out ablutions before offering namaz.

The survey team's report will be submitted before the district court on Tuesday. The Supreme Court is also expected to hear this week a petition filed earlier against the survey ordered by a Varanasi district court. Anjuman Intezamiya Masjid Committee joint secretary Syed Mohammad Yasin claimed that the mosque management was not heard before Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar issued the order.

Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma warned against speculation on what has been found in the mosque. But the claimed finding on the last day of the three-day survey reignited the mandir-masjid debate over the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri complex located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya expressed satisfaction over the development while AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said Muslims are not prepared to "lose another mosque" after the Babri Masjid. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti also referred to the Babri mosque, demolished in 1992, and said, "These claims on mosques are only to fuel hate." Judge Diwakar accepted the application from Hindu petitioners' advocate Harishankar Jain, who argued that the "Shivling" found during Monday's survey was "important evidence".

The application urged the court to direct the CRPF to seal the spot. It also asked the court to restrict the number of people offering namaz at the mosque. "The District Magistrate of Varanasi has been directed that the place where the Shivling was found should be sealed with immediate effect and no person allowed to enter the sealed area," the judge said in his order. The judge directed the district magistrate, the police commissioner and the CRPF commandant in Varanasi to ensure security at the sealed area. "The wazookhana has been sealed this evening, and there was no ruckus. The Muslim side also agreed to it as it was the order of the court," the district magistrate told PTI.

A senior Varanasi official said the "structure" is located in the middle of the wazookhana pond that is about 30 feet by 30 feet across "The pond is already barricaded with an iron net and covered from the top by a tin shed. There are three doors that lead to the pond. Locks have to be put on these doors," the official said earlier. The counsels representing the Hindu petitioners and the mosque committee had accompanied the team conducting the survey. According to a Hindu representative, some water was drained out to expose the structure.

The local court is hearing a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily prayers before the idols on the mosque's outer walls. The survey of the entire complex was ordered during this hearing and was initially stalled by the mosque management, alleging that the advocate commissioner assigned to the task was biased. Monday's survey started at 8 am and ended around 10.15 am. "All parties were satisfied with the work," the DM said. He said the next order of the court will be known only on Tuesday, the deadline set by it for the advocate commissioner to submit the survey report. Till then nobody should disclose what has been found inside the court complex, the DM said. "However, if anyone is disclosing it on their own, then its authenticity cannot be proved. Only the court is the custodian of this information," he said.

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