LUCKNOW: Hindu groups filed petitions in a court in Uttar Pradesh to stop Muslims from entering a historic mosque until the court decides on an earlier plea seeking approval to look for any Hindu relics which may be on the site, lawyers said on Wednesday.

Judges of a court in Mathura, a Hindu pilgrimage town, allowed the new petitions, but have yet start hearings in the 2020 case aimed at securing permission to film and survey inside the 17th century Shahi Eidgah mosque.

“We suspect that Hindu symbols could be removed inside Shahi Eidgah mosque so we want the court to suspend entry of Muslims,” said Mahendra Pratap, a lawyer.

This month, another court in the northern state allowed a team to inspect and film inside one of the most prominent mosques in Varanasi, the political constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Tuesday, the country’s top court overturned a ruling imposed by a Varanasi court to limit large Muslim prayer gatherings in the Gyanvapsi mosque, but allowed the local court to continue proceedings.

“We believe that idols of Hindu gods were lying inside the mosque built after a temple was destroyed by Muslim rulers to prove supremacy,” alleged Ranjana Agnihotri, a lawyer appearing on behalf of Hindu groups questioning the legitimacy of the Shahi Eidgah mosque in Mathura.

Surveyors involved in the Varanasi case said they found a large relic of the Hindu god Shiva inside the Gyanvapsi mosque, but Muslim groups said that a fountainhead was being misrepresented to stir religious tension.

Reports of idols found inside the mosque have further emboldened Hindu groups in western and southern states to demand searches in other mosques.

Police in Aurangabad city said they had intensified security around the grave of Mughal ruler Aurangzeb after members of a regional political party threatened to destroy the tomb.

The same party recently succeeded in forcing the Maharashtra government to ensure the decibel levels of Azan were lowered after its leaders threatened to chant Hindu prayers outside mosques.

Leaders of Muslim political and religious groups said they would fight legal battles against Hindu groups disrupting the sanctity of mosques and tombs.

“We (Muslims) will not let Hindus insult our faith and our mosques,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, a federal lawmaker and leader of a regional Muslim political party.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2022

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