What Will Adityanath Do About the UP Government Body Fighting the Babri Masjid Case?

The Sunni Central Waqf Board, the main claimant in the Babri Masjid title suit, is led by nominees of the UP government.

The BJP has repeatedly promised to build a Ram mandir on the Babri masjid plot if elected to power in UP. Credit: PTI

The BJP has repeatedly promised to build a Ram mandir on the Babri Masjid plot if elected to power in UP. Credit: PTI

Faizabad (Uttar Pradesh): The Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, the main claimant in the Babri Masjid title suit, is a part of the Uttar Pradesh government that is now headed by firebrand Hindutva icon Yogi Adityanath. Recipient of one-third of the Babri Masjid plot (according to the UP high court judgment of 201o) as the representative body of Muslims, the Waqf board is now fighting the suit in the Supreme Court.

According to the BJP’s manifesto in UP, the party’s government will move for the construction of a Ram temple on the Babri site “within the law”. But as per “the law,” the UP government will have to fight the case in favour of the Babri Masjid (rather than the Ram Temple) through the Waqf board.

The Waqf board, especially in its role as a claimant in the case, is closely linked to the UP government. Its chairman and members are nominated by the government, and the body is also funded by the state government. All steps in the litigation, from filing the case on the placement of idols in the Babri Masjid to the pleadings in the run up to the demolition and after, have been taken by the UP government in favour of the masjid until now.

On the intervening night of December 23-24, 1949, when idols were placed in the Babri Masjid, an FIR was lodged by the UP government through Ayodhya kotwal Ram Dev Dubey on the report of beat constable number seven, Mata Prasad. In 1969, with the consent of the UP government, the Sunni Central Waqf Board filed a suit in a Faizabad court claiming the title for the Babri Masjid. Now, in the case in the Supreme Court, the Waqf board is claiming the masjid for Muslims.

“Digvijay Nath, the then Mahant of Gorakhnath temple and leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, engineered the placing of idols in Babri Masjid through his local leaders in Ayodhya, Mahant Abhiram Das and Mahant Ram Chandra Das Paramhans in 1949,” said Dhirendra K. Jha, author of Dark Night at Ayodhya.

In 1991, Kalyan Singh was sworn in as the BJP’s first chief minister of UP. The sweeping majority the party gathered that year was only because of the Ram mandir issue, yet the Waqf board continued to fight for the title suit. The same practice continued in Rajnath Singh and Ram Prakash Gupta regimes, said senior lawyer Mushtaq Ahmad, who pleaded the case in the Lucknow high court.

Mahant Ram Das, the chief priest of Nirmohi Akhara, told The Wire, “If the state government takes the step of withdrawing the Waqf board from the case, it will open a wider path for the construction of a Ram Mandir by giving an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the possibilities for a great Ram mandir in Ayodhya”.

Ranjeet Lal Varma, lawyer for Nirmohi Akhara, one of the main litigants on the Ram mandir side, said, “The government could do nothing, unless there is any change in the central Waqf Act. If the government withdraws the Waqf board from the case, there are more Muslim parties fighting the case as appellants in the Supreme Court”.

“We are ready for negotiation over this issue, let the new government bring a new formula in light of the Supreme Court’s full-bench verdict of October 24, 1994, headed by the then Chief Justice Venkatchalliah. In his verdict, there is a provision for both a mosque and the temple,” said Khaliq Ahmad Khan, a litigant in the Babri Masjid case.

Will Adityanath allow the Waqf board to continue fighting the title suit or will he withdraw the board from the case is a big question, said Iqbal Ansari, a litigant from the masjid side. “If the sitting chief minister withdraws the Waqf board from the case, it may create some disturbance. But the case will continue, there will be no legal problems,” he added.

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