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The dispute over Varanasi, Mathura mosques

Context:

  • Civilsuits questioning the religious character of mosques at Varanasi and Mathura have brought again the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 into news.

About Places of Worship Act and its features:

  • In September 1991 government enacted a special law to freeze the status of places of worship as they were on August 15, 1947.
  • However the law kept the disputed structure at Ayodhya out of its purview as it was then an ongoing litigation.
  • The places of worship act declares that the religious character of a place of worship shall continue to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947.
  • It informs that no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
  • It also declares that all suits, appeals or any other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship, which are pending before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, will abate as soon as the law comes into force.
  • It also states that no further legal proceedings can be instituted.

However there are a couple of exceptions to the rule.

  • The 1991 Act will not apply to ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains which are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • It will also not apply to any suit that has been finally settled or disposed of, any dispute that has been settled by the parties before the 1991 Act came into force, or to the conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence.

What is the status of the ongoing cases on the Gyanvapi mosque?

  • A suit was filed in 2022 in the Varanasi district court by a group of Hindu women worshippers seeking to assert their right to worship deities found on the premises of the Gyanvapi mosque.
  • The plaintiffs say they have a right to worship Ma Sringar Gauri, Ganesh, Hanuman and other deities.
  • Also pending is another batch of suits filed in 1991 seeking a declaration that a part of the site of the Gyanvapi mosque actually belongs to Lord Vishweshwar.
  • The main basis for the suits is that the Hindu side contests that an old temple of Lord Vishweshwar lies at the centre of the Gyanvapi compound.
  • They also claim that the temple was demolished on the order of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1669.

Contest in Mathura:

  • The suits in Mathura is related to the Shahi Idgah mosque that stands adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple there.
  • These suits claim that the mosque was built over the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
  • However the mosque committee denies the allegation.
  • The dispute was settled through a compromise between the Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and the Shahi Idgah Trust in 1968 and also implemented through a decree in 1974.
  • As part of the settlement the Sansthan had given up a portion of the land to the Idgah.
  • The current suits challenge this compromise as fraudulent and seek the transfer of the entire parcel of land to the deity.
  • The Allahabad High Court has transferred to itself all suits pertaining to the Mathura dispute.

The post The dispute over Varanasi, Mathura mosques appeared first on Vajirao IAS.

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