In a significant development, a Varanasi court has granted permission to the Hindu side to offer prayers in the cellar on the southern side of the Gyanvapi mosque. The court directed the district administration to facilitate the prayers to be conducted by the plaintiff and a priest nominated by the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust within the next seven days.

The court’s decision comes after completing the hearing and reserving its order on a plea filed by petitioner Shailendra Kumar Pathak Vyas. Pathak, the maternal grandson of Somnath Vyas, had sought the right to worship deities in the cellar. The suit, titled *Shailendra Kumar Pathak Vyas versus AnjumanIntezamiaMasajid Committee (AIMC)*, urged the court to appoint the district magistrate as the receiver of the cellar.

Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing the Hindu side, emphasized the importance of allowing the plaintiff to perform puja in the cellar and requested the court to create an entry gate for the space. The plaintiff alleged that members of the AIMC, which manages the 17th-century mosque, have been visiting the cellar and may attempt to take it over.

However, Advocate Akhlaque Ahmad, representing AIMC, objected to the plea, citing the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which preserves the religious character of shrines as they existed before August 15, 1947, except for Ayodhya. He argued that since the cellar is part of the Gyanvapi mosque, worship should not be allowed.

The court’s decision to grant permission for prayers in the cellar is likely to intensify the ongoing legal battle surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque. Hindu petitioners have filed multiple cases seeking prayer rights in the mosque, while a recent report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) noted the presence of a large Hindu temple at the site before the mosque’s construction.

The dispute over the Gyanvapi mosque is part of a broader ideological project pursued by Hindu groups in Varanasi, Mathura, and Ayodhya, where medieval-era Islamic structures are contested as having been built by demolishing temples. These cases are being adjudicated in courts across Uttar Pradesh, amidst a larger challenge to the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, currently being heard by the Supreme Court.

The court’s decision marks a significant development in the legal and religious landscape of Varanasi, with implications for the ongoing debate over religious rights and heritage preservation in the region.

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