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ASI team stops survey work of Gyanvapi mosque in UP's Varanasi following SC order

Varanasi: A survey of the Gyanvapi complex to ascertain if the mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi was built upon a temple was stopped by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Monday following a Supreme Court order.

The apex Court has halted the "detailed scientific survey" till 5 pm on July 26, saying "some breathing time" needed to be granted to appeal against the order.

Varanasi Divisional Commissioner Kaushal Raj Sharma said the survey work has been stopped in view of the top court's order.

A 30-member ASI team entered the Gyanvapi complex around 7 am to carry out the survey in accordance with a Varanasi court's order.

After coming out of the mosque complex, Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi, one of the counsel of the Hindu petitioners in the legal dispute, said the survey work lasted for about four hours.

The entire premises was inspected and measured and four teams were deployed at the four corners, he said, adding that the survey proceedings have been recorded by installing four cameras at the four corners of the mosque.

The stones and bricks on the premises were also inspected, Chaturvedi said.
"We are sure that the entire complex belongs to the temple and the result of the survey will be in our favour," he added.

Vishnu Shankar Jain, another counsel representing the petitioners, said, "We will go to the high court and argue on this issue within two days." "A wrong statement is being given by the Muslim side that vandalism is being done in the campus, while only measurement and mapping work is being carried out during the survey," he said.

Besides the ASI team, the lawyers of all the Hindu petitioners were also present at the site, Madan Mohan Yadav, one of the counsel, said.

However, citing the Supreme Court hearing scheduled for Monday on the order for the survey, the lawyers of the Muslim side had demanded that the date for the exercise be postponed, Yadav said.

Late on Sunday evening, District Magistrate (DM) S Rajalingam had said the ASI team had reached Varanasi and the survey proceedings inside the Gyanvapi mosque campus would begin from 7 am on Monday.

Varanasi Police Commissioner Ashok Mutha Jain and the DM held a meeting with both the Hindu and Muslim sides to the dispute on Sunday night to share information about the survey with them.

District Judge A K Vishvesh directed the ASI on Friday to conduct the detailed scientific survey -- including excavations, wherever necessary -- to determine if the mosque was built at a place where a temple existed earlier.

The mosque's "wazookhana" (a small reservoir for Muslim devotees to perform ritual ablutions before offering namaz), where a structure claimed by the Hindu litigants to be a "Shivling" exists, will not be a part of the survey, following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting that spot in the complex.

The judge has directed the ASI to submit a report to the court by August 4, along with video clips and photographs of the survey proceedings. (PTI)

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