LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – A court in northern India on Monday ordered authorities to limit large Muslim prayer gatherings at the historic Gyanvapi Mosque after a survey team found relics of the Hindu god there. Shiva and other Hindu symbols, lawyers involved in the case said. .
Earlier this month, the court in Varanasi set up a team to inspect the premises after five women requested permission to perform Hindu rituals in one of its neighborhoods saying that a Hindu temple once stood on the current Islamic site.
Members of hardline Hindu groups believe that Islamic invaders and Muslim kings during their 200-year rule destroyed Hindu temples to build mosques or mausoleums on top of them as part of their expansionist strategy in the subcontinent.
Gyanvapi Mosque, located in the political constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of the three grand mosques in northern Uttar Pradesh. Important groups believe that it was built after the demolition of a historic temple.
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Lawyer HS Jain, who represented the claimants, told the court that the investigation team found Shiva relics and other Hindu symbols there. The judge banned Muslims from holding a large prayer gathering inside the mosque.
Police said the court order would help maintain law and order at a time when hardline Hindu groups linked to Modi’s political party had amplified demands to search inside some mosques and allow searches in the mausoleum of the Taj Mahal.
In 2019 the Supreme Court allowed Hindus to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th century Babri Mosque which was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992 who believed it had been built on the spot where the god Hindu Ram was born.
The incident led to religious riots that killed nearly 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, across India.
Leaders of India’s 200 million Muslims see the latest move as yet another attempt by hardline Hindus to undermine their rights to freedom of worship and religious expression, with the tacit agreement of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
(Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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