Indian court orders Muslims to limit prayer gatherings at Gyanvapi Mosque

A court in north India has banned large prayer gatherings in the historic Gyanvapi Mosque after a survey team allegedly found Hindu relics there.

Caretakers of the mosque say they will knock on the doors of the country’s top court, arguing the surveyors have found part of the fountain in the wuzu (ablution) area which is being called by Hindus a shivling (a symbol of the Hindu lord Shiva) to grab the mosque site.

The judge at the court in Varanasi ruled on Monday that Islamic gatherings should be limited to 20 people, lawyer H S Jain said.

The court ordered the survey of the mosque after five Hindu women –– represented by Jain –– sought permission to perform Hindu rituals in one part of it, claiming a Hindu temple once stood on the site.

The Muslim body taking care of the mosque said it would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

The Gyanvapi Mosque, located in the political constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of the three large mosques in northern Uttar Pradesh state that Hindu hardliners allege was built on top of demolished Hindu temples.

Hardline Hindu groups tied to Modi’s far-right Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP have stepped up demands to excavate inside some mosques and to permit searches in them.

Leaders of India’s 200 million Muslims view such moves as part of their religious persecution in the Hindus-dominated country.

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