Is the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor destroying ancient temples?

Here’s a fact check of AAP MP Sanjay Singh’s claims on the issue.

WrittenBy:Ahwar Sultan
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On January 15, Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh held a press conference in which he claimed that the construction of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor had unearthed ancient temples which were then destroyed or discarded. Newslaundry sought to verify these claims from the ground in Varanasi.

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Sanjay Singh in the press conference showing a video of Ramesh Uppadhaya making the claims (Source: @AamAadmiParty / Twitter)

Singh, on the authority of a Banaras advocate and activist, Ramesh Uppadhaya, claimed that a 5,000-year-old Bharat Mata temple has been destroyed during the construction process. According to reports in The Times of India and Indian Express last year, the Archaeological Survey of India and UP Archaeological Survey officials clarified that none of the temples in the area were older than 17th Century AD—which Newslaundry confirmed with Niraj Sinha of the ASI over the telephone.

Singh’s press conference also asserted that “Vyasa himself” had dedicated the temple to Bharat Mata 5,000 years ago—though historians state the notion of “Bharat Mata” is certainly not that old.

Newslaundry reached out to Uppadhaya for the temple’s address. Newslaundry found the Bharat Mata temple intact, along with other temples in the region, among the debris—thus disproving Uppadhaya and Singh’s claims of their destruction.

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Temples intact amongst the debris (Credit: Ashutosh Singh)

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Bharat Mata temple intact amongst the debris (Credit: Ashutosh Singh)

Uppadhaya and Singh also claimed about 200 shivlings from the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor were thrown into an empty lot in Rohit Nagar Colony in Varanasi, where they still remain. Newslaundry found that some shivlings were indeed dumped in that location on December 20 but were relocated two days later.

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The lot in Rohit Nagar  where Singh claimed the shivlings were dumped, devoid of shivlings (Credit: Ashutosh Singh)

Vishal Singh, CEO of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, which is also the body overseeing the project, told Newslaundry that the shivlings in Rohit Nagar Colony were from a “dilapidated temple in Gandhi Mohal locality”, as confirmed by a TOI report, after a police investigation, it was revealed that the shivlings had nothing to do with the Kashi Vishwanath project, and were falsely linked to the corridor.

Vishal Singh further said that after these temples were discovered, the project has been under “severe revision” and is being retitled as Kashi Vishwanath Heritage Zone”. According to him, the project will now also aim to conserve these newly unearthed temples. He added, “We have a consulting team of historians and archaeologists who are producing one extensive chapter on the conservation plan for these temples within the larger project report.” He said this report will be finished in about 15 days.

It’s important to note that Ramesh Uppadhaya, the activist cited by Singh in the press conference, was part of a movement called Mandir Bachao Andolan which protested the corridor’s construction when it commenced, and claimed the temples were ancient and being destroyed. The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project had sought to connect the banks of the Ganga to the Vishwanath temple by demolishing the dense streets riddled by commercial and residential structures. Singh himself went on a yatra across Uttar Pradesh with the slogan, “BJP Bhagao, Bhagwan Bachao”. This campaign led to an FIR being registered against him for campaigning without permission, in the wake of which he held his press conference. Singh also went on a dharna in Ayodhya on January 23 to get the charges dropped.

With inputs and photos from Ashutosh Singh.


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