Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Land Dispute: Land of equal value exchanged between Temple & Mosque Administration amid ongoing legal battle for title

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Though the legal battle regarding the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi land title continues, the Temple and Mosque administrations have effectuated a land exchange for plots of equal value.

The Mosque administration has handed over land for the Kashi Vishwanath corridor in exchange for land handed over by temple authorities. The land is situated at a short distance away from the Gyanvapi Mosque and Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Both the lands are of equal value.

Amid the fake news of Gyanvapi Mosque gifting a piece of land to Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust being circulating in the media, the Chief Executive Officer of the Temple Trust, Sunil Verma clarified that the land given to the temple for construction of the Kashi Vishwanath corridor is part of the property of the Uttar Pradesh Central Sunni Waqf Board and as it could not be bought, 1,700 sq feet of land outside the mosque to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust has been exchanged for a piece of land measuring 1,000 sq feet.

“The transfer was done between the Trust and the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board. The land has nothing to do with the mosque. The plot handed over was not connected to the mosque and is separate.  Because this land could not be bought as it is Waqf property, we exchanged it, which was done on the basis of value. The land handed over to the mosque was under the control of the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Special Area Development Board till now,” Mr. Verma said.

The exchange deal was finalized and signed on July 9 by chief executive officer (CEO) of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, Sunil Kumar Verma on behalf of the UP Governor and Abdul Batin Nomani  of Anjuman Intezamiya Masajid.

Litigious Chain: 

A land dispute between the KVTT and the Masjid Committee is pending in court. A suit was filed in 1991 at a Varanasi Court, seeking restoration of the ancient temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque currently stands.

In April, the Varanasi court had ordered an archaeological survey of the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque premises to resolve the decades-old dispute involving the two shrines.

Civil judge Senior Division, Varanasi Civil Court had allowed ASI survey of Gyanvapi mosque adjacent to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Government to bear the expenses.

Direction has further been issued to constitute a commission for survey.

The suit had been filed for restoration of Darshan and performance of rituals at the principle seat of Asthan of Lord Adi Visheshwar and of Goddess Maa Shringar Gauri, the Ardhangni and devotee of Lord Adi Visheshwar along with Lord Ganesh, Nandiji and other deities within the precincts of temple complex known as “Ancient Temple” existing at Settlement Plot No.9130.

The petitioner precisely submits that the present suit seeking declaration and perpetual injunction against the defendants, so to perform religious prayers and practice fall within the ambit of Article 25, Constitution of India. The devotee plaintiffs are worshipper of Lord Shiva and they practice, profess and propagate Vedic Sanatan Hindu Dharma and are competent to bring this suit in the interest of deities and for the benefit of other devotees.

In addition to this, on March 15, the Allahabad High Court reserved its judgment in various pleas, which had challenged the maintainability of the 1991 suit before the Varanasi trial court.

"The matter is still in court. The government has been constructing the corridor; they have been seeking acquisition of land. So we consulted our people and the board has okayed the decision to allot 1700 sq feet of land for the Kashi Vishwanath corridor," said S. M. Yasin, joint secretary, Anjuman Intazamia Masjid has told media.

“The Trust had requested us to give this land a couple of years ago, and after checking the rules for such a transfer, we finalised it on July 8,” Yasin has stated, according to media reports.

The Plot In Question:

Under the Gyanvapi mosque committee, there are three plots of land.

One of them has the mosque; the second plot is a common passage between the two places of worship.

The third plot was handed over to the district administration a year after the Babri mosque was demolished to build a control room for security of both the shrines.

The plot was given on lease for an unlimited period and without any transaction. The police control room that stood at the spot has now been demolished for the Kashi Vishwanath corridor project.