A court-mandated survey and filming at Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple began today amid tight security and restrictions near the complex.
The survey was carried out for four hours today and is expected to continue tomorrow too – the Varanasi court has asked for a report by Tuesday.
“The court-mandated survey began from 8 am till 12 noon. All authorised persons — all parties, their advocates, court commissioners and videographers — were present. Officials from the state government, police commissioner and members of the temple Trust were also present. The survey work went on in a peaceful manner. After a four-hour survey we managed to cover 50 per cent of the premises, we cannot disclose which portions were surveyed and what we found,” District Magistrate of Varanasi Kaushal Raj Sharma said in a video statement.
More than 1,500 policemen and PAC jawans were deployed as part of the security arrangement, news agency PTI reported.
The movement of people was stopped at a distance of 500 metres from the Gyanvapi complex.
Five Hindu women have sought year-long access to pray at the shrine behind the mosque. The site is currently open for prayers once a year. The women also want permission to pray to other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex”.
Vikram Shukla, a lawyer for petitioners, told NDTV they were satisfied with the proceedings.
“We accessed all the areas that the petitioners wanted. We told the commissioner about it and he in turn coordinated with the opposite side. There were clear orders that legal action would be taken against anyone who tried to stop the process but nothing of this sort happened,” Mr Shukla said.
A lawyer representing the Gyanvapi Mosque trust that approached the Supreme Court against the filming order saying it is at odds with the Places of Worship Act, 1991, claimed nothing unusual was found during the survey. “First everyone went inside, two locks to basements were opened, one was broken because it was old and rusted. There were just normal rooms. I don’t think anything of significance was found,” Mr Tauhwed said in an interview to NDTV.
A part of this survey took place on May 6, but was halted after a dispute broke out over filming inside the mosque. The mosque committee said the court had not ordered videography inside the mosque. The petitioners’ lawyer, however, insisted that the court had given a go-ahead.
Hearing the matter this week, the local court had ordered videography can happen at all places asked for by the petitioners