By Omar Rashid

New Delhi: Aligning with the claims of the Hindu plaintiffs in the Gyanvapi Masjid matter and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, at least two senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have publicly claimed that they had performed puja facing the walls of the mosque or in its basement before 1993.

This comes at a time when the Varanasi administration, executing the controversial orders of a district court, supervised the installation of idols of Hindu deities inside the southern cellar of the mosque and arranged prayer rituals by a Hindu priest there. The administration has also cut a portion of the steel barricade that secures the mosque to allow the entry of the Hindu priests.

The caretakers of the mosque have described as “false and baseless” the claims by a Hindu plaintiff that idols of Hindu deities existed inside the basement of the mosque and that they used to be worshipped by his ancestors till the mosque was barricaded in December 1993 following Supreme Court orders in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition.

Keshav Prasad Maurya

Speaking at an event in Lucknow on February 3, Keshav Prasad Maurya, Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister, claimed that till 1993, the basement of the mosque, “Vyas ji ka tehkhana” was open and people would offer prayers there.

“I also had the good fortune of doing ‘darshan’ there. But in 1993 it was stopped,” Maurya said at the “Shri Ram Darbar”, an event organised by a newly-launched right-wing platform Shri Guru Vasishtha Nyas.

Maurya, who described the puja inside the basement of the mosque as a “historic” event, also said that if the BJP government, of which he was a part, wanted it could have opened the basement of the mosque for Hindu prayers but it chose to not intervene.

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