The Gyanvapi mosque authorities have said the structure inside a tank that the Hindu side in the dispute is claiming to be a Shivalinga is a fountain that had been installed a few years ago and had been lying defunct.
Members of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, the management committee of the mosque that adjoins the Kashi Vishwanath temple, said the now-removed head of the commission tasked by a court to survey the mosque had refused to get the structure repaired so that it could be proved it was a fountain.
Mohammad Merazuddin, one of the counsels for the Muslim side, said: “They are claiming that a fountain in the middle of a tank on the mosque premises is a Shivalinga. The small, shallow tank behind the mosque has been there for over a decade. There are water taps affixed to a wall of the tank for the purpose of wuzu (ablution before offering namaz). A fountain was installed inside the tank a few years ago and a circular wall was built around it.”
The Hindu side has held up the structure that they are calling a Shivalinga as evidence that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had demolished the original Kashi Vishwanath temple to have the mosque built. The RSS has been campaigning for the removal of the mosque.
Hari Singh Jain, an advocate for the Hindu side, had on Monday moved the civil court that is hearing the dispute and has ordered a survey of the mosque to get the area where the structure has been found cordoned off. The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Varanasi district magistrate to ensure protection of the site.
A member of the Gyanvapi management committee said, requesting anonymity: “The claim on the Shivalinga is ridiculous. We have been saying right from the beginning that Mishra (advocate commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra who was removed by the civil court on Tuesday) was playing with our emotions. We believe that he has already done enough damage to us.
“Still, we need to explain that till a few years ago, the water of the tank was used for wuzu before people went inside the mosque to offer namaz. Later, water taps were installed there. The fountain and the wall encircling it (within the larger triangle-shaped tank) were built three-four years ago. The fountain has been lying defunct since the end of 2020, so we had put fish in the area between the tank and the fountain wall to keep its water clean. Now, we use water from the taps for wuzu.”
He added: “Our workers had cleaned the holes in the fountain with the help of iron wires in the presence of Mishra on Monday and requested him to put water in the circular area and call someone to repair the fountain so that it could be proved that it was a fountain, not a Shivalinga. But he didn’t listen to us and some people kept chanting Har Har Mahadev.”
Mohammad Suleman, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board that is planning to provide legal assistance to the Gyanvapi mosque authorities, said: “The civil judge has crossed his jurisdiction. He was supposed to act on the basis of the law codified by the country. But he violated the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, that provides for status quo on any religious structure as it existed on August 15, 1991. Even the Supreme Court had said this in its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in 2019.”
“The Hindu lawyers are trying to make a weird claim. The entire country knows that the place that was sealed on Monday was the wuzu area and the structure that they are claiming to be a Shivalinga is actually a fountain. Muslims used to wash their hands and faces there in the past. The management committee of the mosque put fish in the tank when the fountain stopped working,” Suleman told reporters in Kanpur on Tuesday.
Abhay Nath Yadav, a counsel for the Intezamia, told reporters in Varanasi: “Lawyers can’t decide whether it is a Shivalinga or a fountain. The Hindu side is desperate to prove something without any evidence. I challenge their claim and assure them that I’ll prove that it is only a fountain and nothing else. I’ll appeal in the court to open the sealed area.”
Vishnu Shankar Jain, another lawyer for the Hindu side, said: “We have sought time to prove that it is a Shivalinga.”
The matter will be heard on Wednesday.