The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project is an ambitious initiative of the prime minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government, which aims to provide direct access to pilgrims between the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the ghats of river Ganga. Hundreds of houses are being demolished for the purpose, for which the government is reportedly providing compensation.
Against the backdrop of at least 40 ancient temples rediscovered in the clearance, a video floating across social media channels is being shared with the claim that it depicts the demolition of 80 Muslim houses for the construction of the corridor. “45 old temples were discovered inside these houses,” asserts the narrative.
Several Tamil speakers had shared the video earlier in February.
பிரேக்கிங் நியூஸ் காஷி விஸ்வநாத் கோயிலில் இருந்து கங்கை நதி வரை சாலையின் அகலத்தை அதிகரிக்கும் பொருட்டு, சாலையில் வரும் 80 முஸ்லிம்களின் வீடுகளை மோடி வாங்கத் தொடங்கினார். இந்த வீடுகள் இடிக்கப்பட்டபோது, அதில் 45 பழைய கோயில்கள் காணப்பட்டன. அவுரங்கசீப் அசல் காஷி விஸ்வநாத் கோயிலை கியான்வாபி மசூதியாக மாற்றியபோது, அவர் தனது வீரர்களில் சிலருக்கு மசூதியைச் சுற்றி வாழ ஒரு இடத்தைக் கொடுத்து, அருகிலுள்ள சிறிய கோயில்களை ஆக்கிரமித்து இந்த கோவில்களில் தங்கள் வீடுகளைக் கட்டினார். இப்போதே பிரதமர் மோடி இந்த முகலாய இராணுவத்தின் அனைத்து ஆக்கிரமிப்பாளர்களின் வீடுகளையும் அகற்றிவிட்டு உலகிற்கு என்ன கிடைத்துள்ளது என்று பாருங்கள் ……. பண்டைய கோயில்களின் 45 பொக்கிஷங்கள்…. வீடியோவைப் பாருங்கள்.*
Posted by Guruji Bairava Baba on Tuesday, 16 February 2021
The claim was also circulating in January but in Hindi – “काशी विश्वनाथ मंदिर से गंगा नदी तक सड़क की चौड़ाई बढ़ाने के लिए मोदी जी ने सड़क में आने वाले 80 मुसलमानों के घरों को खरीदना शुरू कर दिया।जब इन मकानों को ध्वस्त किया गया, तो इसमें 45 पुराने मंदिर पाए गए।असल में जब औरंगजेब ने मूल काशी विश्वनाथ मंदिर को ज्ञानवापी मस्जिद में बदल.”
The identical claim has been floating on social media since 2019.
“Not even a single house demolished belonged to Muslims”: CEO, Kashi Vishwanath Special Area Development Board
The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project is under the supervision of the Kashi Vishwanath Special Area Development Board. The corresponding website of the Board contains a list of the properties purchased for the purpose of demolition. All the people named are Hindus.
The list includes 165 names. However, Vishal Singh, CEO, Kashi Vishwanath Special Area Development Board, told Alt News that till now 250 houses have been demolished for the project. When asked if any of the razed homes belonged to members of the Muslim community, Singh said, “Not even a single house demolished was occupied by Muslims as the area is predominately Hindu.”
The Board’s website contains another list – an index of all the shopkeepers who have been compensated.
“As part of the project”, Singh informed, “two separate compensations have been provided. First, to the owners of the houses/shops purchased for demolition, and second, to the shopkeepers who did not own the shops but have been working at the shops for years. The second form of compensation isn’t a payment for demolition but for loss of livelihood.”
Out of the 89 shopkeepers who found a mention in the list, one of them was a Muslim woman named Yasmeen Bano. “Several Muslim shopkeepers who had been working at the shops for a long period of time have been compensated,” said Singh. They were, however, not owners of the shops but tenants.
The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project announced in March 2018 isn’t merely an initiative aimed at providing pilgrims clean and uncongested roads from the temple to the ghats. It is a full-fledged transformation project that intends to remodel the ancient city. Starting with clearing the houses and shops on the pathway of the 50-feet-wide corridor, the ambitious project envisions an upgrade of the ghats of Ganga, waiting rooms for pilgrims, museums and auditoriums, lodging for priests and pilgrims, and a food street, among other development initiatives.
A ground report by the BBC‘s Samiratmaj Mishra said that numerous residents are unhappy with the project. Sceptical about parting with their homes despite the compensation, several locals have been protesting since the past three months. Many of their houses adorn posters which say – ‘Our homes are not for sale’, ‘We will not let our heritage get ruined.’
Mishra informed Alt News that the video doing rounds on social media depicts the site of demolition. However, he too stated that the houses razed did not belong to members of the Muslim community.
We spoke to a local resident, Anurag Tiwari, for further corroboration. “The demolition sites did not have Muslim settlements but the houses and shops of Hindus residents. Most of these houses were built around temples, some big and some small. The government has compensated for the acquired properties and claims suggesting that Muslim homes were demolished seem communally motivated.” said Tiwari.
The claim circulated on social media stands unsupported by facts. The localities being cleared for constructing the corridor are Hindu-dominated and none of the houses demolished to date belonged to members of the Muslim community. As corroborated by three independent sources, the temples rediscovered in the clearance were excavated from Hindu homes and not Muslim households.