The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday quashed a local order to close large Muslim prayer gatherings in a high-profile mosque in northern India after a test team said they had found objects of the Hindu god Shiva and other Hindu symbols there.
The Supreme Court in an interim order ruled that the Islamic right to pray should not be violated, and at the same time the place where the Hindu religious texts were supposed to be found should be protected.
The controversy over religious rights in the mosque follows a decades-long campaign by Hindu instigators to show that the main mosques built by Muslims in India are housed in ancient shrines.
The previous conflict 30 years ago led to a deadly riot.
The Supreme Court order comes a day after a local court in Varanasi – the most sacred Hindu city and site of the historic Gyanvapi mosque – ruled that Muslim gatherings should be limited to 20 people.
A local court ordered the inspection of the mosque after five women applied for permission to perform Hindu rituals in the same area, claiming that a Hindu temple once stood on the site.
The Gyanvapi mosque, located in the area of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of the many mosques in northern Uttar Pradesh that some Hindus believe have been built on top of demolished Hindu temples.
Hardline Hindu groups tied to the Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have raised digging claims within other mosques and allowed searches at the Taj Mahal mausoleum.
High court judges will continue to hear applications from Hindus and Muslims this week.
India’s 200 million Muslim leaders view research within the mosque as an attempt to undermine their rights to free religion and religious expression, as well as to the BJP’s silent agreement.
The BJP rejects discrimination against minorities including Muslims and says it wants continuous change that benefits all Indians.
In 2019, the Supreme Court allowed Hindus to build a temple on the 16th-century Babri mosque, which was demolished by a Hindu mob in 1992 who believed it had been built on the site of the birth of the Hindu Lord Ram.
The demolition led to a religious upheaval that killed nearly 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, throughout India.