New Delhi, Feb 1 (EFE).- Dozens of Hindus offered prayers on Thursday in a 17th-century mosque in north India after a court allowed them to pray amid a dispute that the Muslim place of worship stood over an ancient Hindu temple.
A priest conducted a ceremony in the Gyanvapi mosque’s basement in the ancient city of Varanasi, as footage broadcast on TV channels showed.
Hindus argued that beneath the mosque ordered to be built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb lies a temple dedicated to the god Shiva.
A local court in Varanasi granted permission for Hindus to pray in the mosque’s basement. However, the Muslim party involved in the legal dispute has said they would appeal the decision to a higher court.
The controversy surrounding Gyanvapi picked up in mid-2022 when Hindus claimed that a structure uncovered in the basement of the mosque was a “shilling,” an oval-shaped symbol dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva.
Muslims contest the claim, saying it was part of a fountain of a small water reservoir used by worshippers to perform ritual ablutions before offering namaz.
The court’s decision to Hindu rituals inside the mosque comes days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over a ceremony to open a grand Hindu temple built of a16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in northern Indian city of Ayodhya
The mosque was demolished by Hindu hardliners in December 1992, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim riots that left some 2,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.
In 2019, India’s top court ordered the construction of a new temple on the ruins of the mosque that Hindus believe was the birthplace of the Hindu deity, Ram.
Hindu fundamentalists have sought ownership of other Muslim places of worship, including a mosque in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, where followers of the Hindu god Krishna claim the deity was born.
Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have denounced the increasing discrimination against Indian Muslims, attributing it to the political agenda championed by the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi has been governing India since 2014 and is now seeking his third consecutive five-year term. EFE