After being closed for three decades, Hindu devotees started worshiping in a part of Gnanabapi Masjid in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Late last night, Gnanabapi was worshiped in the basement of the mosque. It was closed 30 years ago on the orders of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, soon after the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid.
According to Indian media reports, the district court in Varanasi allowed Hindus to worship in the sealed Tehkhana of Gnanabapi Masjid on Wednesday. Tehkhana is an underground room or cellar below the mosque. There are four such teahouses under Gnanabapi Masjid. Meanwhile, the southern teahouse is owned by the Vyas family. Hence the name of the basement is ‘Vyas Ki Tahkhana’. The court allowed the Hindu party to worship in this Vyas Ki Tahkhana.
Yesterday, the barricade was removed from the basement area of the mosque on the orders of the administration. The entire area was surrounded by police security. At around 2 am the Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner came out of the basement together. Then around 3 o’clock in the morning, the members of the Vyas family started worshiping in the basement of Gnanabapi Masjid.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Hindu side approached the Supreme Court with a request to open the ‘seal’ of the toilet of the Gnanabapi Masjid. They demanded that a detailed survey of the ablutions should be carried out without damaging the Shivlinga (alternatively fountain) found in the reservoir of the mosque. In 2022, the Varanasi lower court ordered that the fountain be ‘sealed’ after it was claimed to be a Shivlinga. The toilet has been closed since then.
Finally, on January 25, a survey report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was released on behalf of the Hindu side, saying that there was evidence of the presence of a large Hindu temple in the area before the present structure of the Gnanabapi Masjid. It was after this report that the Hindu side requested to open the sealed area of Gnanabapi Masjid. They recently approached the Supreme Court in this regard. Meanwhile, the district court of Varanasi issued a special order in the Gnanabapi case on Wednesday.
Akhlakh Ahmed, counsel of the Anjuman Intezamiya Mosque Committee, the other party in the Gnanabapi case, said that he will appeal to the Supreme Court challenging this order. The court has fixed February 8 as the date of hearing an application of the mosque committee in this regard.