The Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, in this photograph dated March 12, 2021. (Express Photo by Anand Singh)

The Varanasi District Court order has legally transformed the Gyanvapi mosque into a disputed site. The court has accepted the legal claim made by five Hindu women for the “restoration of Darshan, Pooja, Aarti, Bhog and performance of rituals at the principal seat of Asthan of Lord Adi Visheshwar and of Goddess Maa Shringar Gauri”.

It is true that the Gyanvapi dispute is not entirely new. It has a long and violent history. The recent verdict, nevertheless, has given it a completely different direction. The conflict can no longer be described as a politically-motivated mosque/temple dispute. It has now acquired a legitimate legal overtone, which is going to contribute significantly to the emerging political discourse.

The conversion of the Gyanvapi mosque into a disputed site, broadly speaking, underlines three very important political aspects.

First, the status of the Gyanvapi mosque as a functional religious place of worship has important political significance. Unlike Babri Masjid, which was a non-functional and almost abandoned structure, Gyanvapi is a living mosque. It is open to Muslim worshippers and they are allowed to use it for performing namaz five times a day.

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