A videographic survey of the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal at the disputed Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex in Varanasi, as ordered by a local court last month, began on Friday afternoon amid heavy security.
According to officials, the survey started at about 3 pm and concluded at 6.30 pm — it was stopped for some time as lawyers representing the mosque accused Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar, appointed by the court to conduct the inspection, of being “biased”. The survey will continue on Saturday afternoon.
On April 8, Civil Judge (Senior Division), Varanasi, Ravi Kumar Diwakar had appointed Kumar to carry out the survey and directed him to “prepare videography of the action” and submit a report. It said he could seek police assistance if needed.
The court’s direction came on a petition filed by five women in August 2021 seeking an order to allow them to worship at the site. The petition was filed by Rakhi Singh, a resident of Delhi, and four others, through their counsel, Advocate Hari Shankar Jain.
On April 21, the Allahabad High Court dismissed a petition filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee (Gyanvapi), challenging the local court’s order.
After the High Court dismissed the petition, the local court, on April 26, again ordered videography of the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal at the complex. “During the commission’s work, the plaintiffs and their lawyers, who can take one assistant each, can enter. But this commission’s work can only be done after Eid-ul-Fitr festival on May 3,” the court said. It directed Kumar to submit a report at the next hearing on May 10.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday evening, Advocate Abhay Nath Yadav, counsel for the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee who was present during the survey, said Kumar “didn’t act like a court-appointed official, and his behaviour showed bias towards the Hindu side during the survey”.
“When a court appoints an Advocate Commissioner, he/she is supposed to be unbiased. But in today’s proceedings, the Advocate Commissioner was following instructions given by the Hindu side. He reached the main gate of the mosque and said he would enter the mosque and do videography. We objected to this, and said the court had not passed any order to do videography inside the mosque. The Advocate Commissioner said the court had passed an order to this effect. I told him to read the order again, but he didn’t listen. We told him that we have lost faith in him as a court official. I wrote an application and gave it to him saying his actions were biased,” said Yadav.
“We will probably submit an application in the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) on Saturday asking it to replace Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar… The Advocate Commissioner has fixed the time for continuing the survey on Saturday at 2.30 pm, but it will depend on whether our application to change the Advocate Commissioner is accepted or not,” he said.
Advocate Jain, representing the petitioners, said this was a “tactic” to stop the survey. “The allegation regarding bias is baseless. The whole process is being videographed. There is evidence for everything and there is no possibility of bias,” he said.
“After the Advocate Commissioner said we would enter the mosque, the whole proceeding had to stop for an hour. The issue is regarding the so-called mosque being built on a temple. The court’s order says that the survey will be done inside the mosque. The survey is to establish whether it was built after demolishing a temple,” he said.
Earlier, S M Yasin, general secretary of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, had said that the “survey would not be permitted inside the mosque”.
Meanwhile, some sloganeering was reported from outside the complex before the survey began on Friday. A senior police officer said there was no confrontation. “The situation was controlled. No police action was needed,” said the officer.